By Fortune Eromosele, Abuja
Nigeria’s quest to introduce maize varieties resistant to insects, pests, has gained approval from the federal government, with the provisions of a genetically modified corn ‘TELA’ maize, that will improve food security in the country.
The Director-General of the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, Director-General National Biotechnology Development Agency, NABDA, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha and the Executive Director Nigerian Institute for Agricultural Research, IAR, Professor Mohammad Ishyaku, gave their approvals during the “Public Presentation of the Drought Tolerant and Fall Armyworm Resistant Maize (TELA Maize),” in Abuja.
In his remarks, Director-General NBMA, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, said the Agency is aware of the controversies that always trail genetically modified organisms, noting that they have properly scrutinized TELA maize, to ensure human health safety.
He said the GM corn met all the biosafety standards of the Agency, assuring Nigerians that no harm would come to their crops and the environment.
“It is on this note we have introduced the need for public hearing. For members of the public to know what we are doing.
“And also to give opportunities for the applicants to speak with members of the public, the media, telling the public what the product is all about, how relevant it is to our national economy and also what are the safety measures that have been taken to ensure that the process is safe.
“It is critical that every product that is been released for commercial purpose must meet required biosafety standards, these include compatibility and also sustainability in the environment. It also must meet the safety standards in the area of human health and also give us economic benefits. These are the three parameters the Agency has considered in the past months.
“The NBMA finds it very important to make the public aware of our decisions on what we are about to do at all times,” he explained.
Describing the processes that lead to the approval of TELA maize, the DG said, “We have had three public adverts telling members of the public that we have an application for commercial release of a GM corn known as TELA maize.
“The NBMA also constituted two committees, the National Biosafety Committee and National Biosafety Sub-technical Committee to do indebt review of this project, and they have submitted their various reports, giving us their recommendations. ,
“The Agency has equally done it’s in-house review of the application as well. This presentation is for the applicants to further convince the public, also to convince the Agency that the application they filed before the Agency, has met all requirements that can be considered for approval.”
Ebegba cautioned that should there be any reason to withdraw the approval, that the Agency will not hesitate, because it has the mandate to be transparent at all times.
In the same vein, Director-General National Biotechnology Development Agency, NABDA, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha said the future of agriculture is biotechnology, adding that it will change the narrative in dealing with drought and pests that destroy crops.
He said: “Biotechnology is a technology that is evolving and making the changes on the whole world history, the changes are in medicine and what we see today in agriculture.
“The future of agriculture is biotechnology before we were using a conventional way to change the narrative, where it will take a longer time to achieve results, but now the world population is increasing rapidly and the land that is available is decreasing, the way forward is biotechnology.
“That is why the TELA maize project is very important because the drought that is caused by climate change will not allow crops to reach the time of maturity, but by using this technology, the drought can be circumvented.”
Also, Executive Director Nigerian Institute for Agricultural Research, IAR, Professor Mohammad Ishyaku, opined that Nigeria must be interested in practising and harnessing scientific potentials.
“At the heart of all we do, we must fulfil our mandate as a nation to ensure we provide lasting solutions to the problems our farmers encounter, so as to harness their potentials in the agricultural sector,” he stated.
He noted that IAR, partnered with the Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), to bring the project to the limelight.