By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE National Biotechnology Development Agency, NABDA has disclosed that Nigeria’s first BT Cowpea is set to be released in 2019 to farmers and will close gap of over 500, 000 metric tonnes of beans production deficit.
This was made known by the Acting Director General/Chief Executive officer CEO, NABDA, Prof Alex Akpa, at a media conference on the Approved PBR Cowpea, held in Abuja.
Akpa told farmers and consumers not to be scared of BT Cowpea as it is safe for consumption and cultivation including environmentally friendliness.
According to him the new cowpea variety is at the final process for commercialization after 10 years of research work by some Nigerian scientists from the Institute for Agricultural Research, IAR, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU.
He said is dream come through for the farmers, institute and consumers following the devastating effects of the pod-boring insect popularly called Maruca.
He said: “The fact that Nigeria still remains the largest producer of beans is under threat as current realities has shown that the country is experiencing demand deficit of over 500,000 tonnes while national productivity average has stagnated at 350kg/hectare.
“Globally, science and technology is what countries have used to leapfrog poverty malnutrition, hunger and diseases; Nigeria is not different.
“After 10 years of laboratory works and on-field trials, Nigerian scientists from the Institute for Agricultural Research IAR, ABU have developed the nation’s first genetically modified food crop, the PBR Cowpea.
“This achievement is by no means small. It is worthy of celebration if you consider he number of dreams that have been shattered by poor harvest occasioned by Maruca invasion of farms as well as the lives that have been lost due to heavy use of insecticides.”
Also speaking was the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, ARCN, Saidu Madagwa, represented by Yarma Dapaya, stated that, “The release of BT Cowpea will therefore no doubt impact positively on the increasing cowpea yields, enhance livelihood of our dear farmers.
“No GM foods cause allergic reactions. Therefore, it is time for us in Nigeria put to rest questions around biotechnology and safety once and for all.
“It has been reported that each of the product that has gone to market has an outstanding record of safety for the farmer and consumer. It should be noted that only when we invest in technology we can move forward to face future challenges.”
According to him on safety of biotechnology FAO, NEPAD, 54 African countries, National Academy for Science Study, Over 103 Nobel laureates, United Nations, World Health Organisation, and many have endorsed it for safe human consumption.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director, Institute of Agricultural Research, IAR, Prof Ibrahim Abubakar, the institute complied with all safety standards and procedures while embarking of the research and development of the Maruca Cowpea Resistant variety.
Abubakar also added that there will proper labeling of the variety and a name given to it that would be easily identified by farmers with outlets they can access, which will be seed companies and no way it can be adulterated.
“The main concern of this technology is the safety of the product, food, feed and environment. The team has compliance with the regulatory agencies.
“For the past 10 years the institute has been working and conducting trials on the pod-borer resistant BT Cowpea in laboratory, field and confined trials.
“None of the regulatory agencies have found the institute bridging their safety regulations set by them”, he stated.
The Project Facilitator of the pod-borer resistant cowpea project, Prof. Mohammad Ishiyaku, explained that just like other cowpea species, the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea can be replanted like any other known variety.
“Farmers can continue to replant this particular specie as opposed to the agitation being promoted by people opposed to this technology that ones you buy seed, you must go back and buy again. It can be cooked for duration of 15-20 minutes and ready to eat. It is safe for food and feed”, he added.