BT Cowpea not cancerous — Prof Ishaku
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The National Biotechnology Development Agency, NBDA, assured that the newly approved PBR Cowpea will bridge the nation’s demand deficit of 500, 000 tonnes in the agricultural sector.
This was closed by the Ag. Director-General, NBDA, Prof Alex Akpa, at a press conference held in Abuja, to explain the benefits and potentials of the newly released cowpea called SAMPEA 20-T.
According to Akpa Nigeria by this development, Nigeria has become the first country in Sub Saharan Africa apart from South Africa to develop and release GM food crops.
He further stated that the newly registered SAMPEA 20-T is highly resistant to Maruca vitrata, an insect pest that causes up to 90 per cent yield loss in severe infestation cases and would ameliorate sufferings of farmers.
He added that SAMPEA 20-T is early maturing (70 – 75 days) with semi-erect growth habit, insensitive to day-length, and has medium-large white seeds, which also is resistant to Striga and Alectra, two notorious parasitic weeds.
He said: “About six days ago, The National Committee on Naming, Registration, and Release of Crop Varieties in the country met in Ibadan and approved the PBR Cowpea for release to farmers after naming it SAMPEA 20-T.
“The decision to release the variety means that farmers will have access to the seed that will help them significantly reduce the number of chemical sprays they currently apply to their crop from 6 to 7 times to only 2 times per cropping season and as a result realise better yield in quantity and quality. It will also contribute to addressing the national cowpea demand deficit of about 500,000 tonnes and also improve the national productivity average of 350kg/hectare.
“This achievement is by no means small. It is worthy of celebration if you consider the numbers 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 the heavy use of an insecticide.
“Beans is an inexpensive heart-healthy food popular all around the world. In addition to being high in protein, beans are also a good source of fiber, iron, and potassium. In Nigeria, it is eating by millions of people from the north to the South, from the East to the West on a daily basis.”
Also speaking was the Lead Scientist for the development of PBR Cowpea, Prof Mohammed Ishaku of the Ahmadu Bello University’s Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, who urged Nigerians to ignore any campaign to create fear in them that PBR Cowpea is cancerous and should not be cultivated or consumed.
“For these people to continue trading and selling poisonous chemicals to us, they have to scare us and make us look at the alternative they are providing to us is safer. The person that says BT Cowpea is cancerous what is his integrity?
“There is nothing you can do to dissuade someone who is genuinely concerned from that which is mischievous. The person who is mischievous may even be knowledgeable in some instances but because of mischief will continue to spread these lies to unsuspecting very innocent people who would have enjoyed the solution to their problem.
“In my opinion, it is sinful because you are propagating hunger, I am trying to curb hunger, solve the problem for people, and you are now deceiving them, wanting them to persist in abject poverty and backwardness.
“You don’t have to be a scientist to convince our people to know that it is only through the adoption of technology that our society is going to move forward. With every new technology people will raise concerns, naturally, human beings are resistant to change.
“We are ready to go, in other words, the seeds are on the doorstep of the farmers. For every single hectare for SAMPEA 20-T that is growing in Nigeria, as a result, the average reduction in amount in insecticide spraying we are saving N5, 400 as of the time.
“And now we with the current cost of the insecticide this figure is rising around N8, 000 per hectare in terms of reduction due to insecticide and this translate to the earlier estimation is N48 billion if 100 million hectares are grown and that would be N48 million per 100 hectares, and this is what will add to the economy.
“Yield increase of conservative 10 per cent and 10 per cent means for every 100 bags you are getting additional 10 bags at the cost of N300, 000 per bag. For 100 hectares you are adding an additional margin of N3 million.
“And if you add up this is what will go into the economy, and adding to that there is a cause of health challenges which farmers potentially would have faced as a result of inhaling this insecticide because of frequent spray and then the discharge into our environment which pollutes the environment. So these are the benefits that come with it.”