The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has concluded arrangements to sustain the gains of Nigeria’s first genetically modified crop variety, the pod-borer-resistant cowpea with a second gene.
Recall that AATF facilitated the environmental release of the first generation of PBR cowpea in 2019 after one decade of confined and on-farm trials by the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Speaking during a courtesy call on the director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba in Abuja, the AATF regional representative for West Africa, Dr. Jean Bapsite said that unprecedented testimonies from farmers on the importance of the PBR cowpea have compelled the team to quickly work on the stacking of the gene of the insert to protect the cowpea against any possible breakdown.
“As is the science practice, we continue to improve on our successes and leave no gap for any breakdown. The second gene will strengthen, reinforce and increase the resistance level of the PBR cowpea against any attack,” Baptise said.
Recall that the PBR cowpea was commercially released to farmers in 2021 and it is currently being planted all over the country, with farmers counting the gains of yield increase, less use of chemical sprays and prolific fodder production when compared to the conventional cowpea varieties.
In his remarks, Ebegba congratulated AATF and its partners for developing and releasing a crop variety “that benefits and enhances the livelihood of farmers”.
He informed the delegation that NBMA has continued to improve its application processes to confirm current scientific realities. “Science is not democracy. Our regulation is purely scientifically based and we shall not be moved by blackmail or emotions. The safety of Nigerians and the environment is our utmost interest”.
He challenged African scientists to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that biotechnology offers to research more into the technology.
The NBMA boss wondered why, after almost three decades, African scientists are still depending on their foreign counterparts to make progress in domesticating the technology on the continent.
A statement by the AATF’s communication officer (West and Central Africa), Alex Abutu said the AATF was founded in 2003 to address Africa’s food security prospects through agricultural technology.
“[The] AATF,” the statement began, “believes that the agricultural sector is a key foundational pillar as Africa consolidates its economic growth and carves out its new position as a major global economic powerhouse and the next growth market in the world”.