…allows for open cultivation
The Federal Government has granted environmental approval for evaluation and open cultivation of the TELA Maize, a new maize variety developed by researchers at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria that resists fall armyworm, stem borers and withstands moderate drought.
The government’s decision was contained in a certificate issued to IAR by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), the Federal Government agency mandated to regulate genetically modified products in the country.
The certificate, with the date October 8, 2021 and permit code no. NBMA/CM/003, was issued to IAR for general\commercial release of TELA Maize Genetically Modified for Drought Tolerance, Resistance to Stem Borer and Fall Armyworm and comes into effect from October 8, 2021, to October 5, 2024.
A decision document accompanying the certificate from NBMA said the agency considered the advice of the National Biosafety Committee, the National Biosafety Technical Sub-Committee and the risk management report provided by the applicant before granting the permit.
“The agency was convinced that there are no known adverse impacts to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, taking into account risk to human health. The permit is without prejudice to other extant legal requirements.
“This permit authorises the permit-holder and persons covered by the permit to commercialise the TELA Maize genetically modified for drought tolerance and insect resistance,” the decision document from the NBMA stated.
Reacting to the decision, the executive director, IAR, Prof. Ishiyaku Mohammed, said it was inspiring for the IAR to secure NBMA approval for the commercial release of the drought-tolerant and insect-resistant maize (TELA Maize).
“This goes to further highlight IAR’s capacity and commitment to providing effective solutions to agricultural problems facing our farmers and optimizing food security for Nigerians. The approval will open the way to combatting the devastating effects of both drought and insect pests through the deployment of this new variety of maize into our farming system.
“The next step is to evaluate the performance of this new variety by farmers on their fields in all the major maize-growing belts in Nigeria. Thereafter, we shall seek another approval by the National variety release committee before making the seeds commercially available for farmers to plant in the 2023 cropping season,” he said.
Reacting to the development, the AATF executive director, Dr. Canisius Kanangire, said the approval showed Nigeria’s resolve to lead the way in Africa and ensure that small-holder farmers benefit from life-changing technologies that have transformed farming in other parts of the globe.
“The approval by the government of Nigeria is a sign that we are making good progress, especially in our quest to expand the options for small-holder farmers on the continent to profit from their labour by using affordable technologies that enhance productivity and reduce incidents of pests’ infestation.
“TELA Maize is coming at a time when farmers are spending so much to reduce insect and pest attacks, as well as battling with the issue of drought. With TELA Maize, farmers in Nigeria will have relief from frequent chemical sprays which affect their health. The savings from this can be converted to address other family needs,” Kanangire added.
In his remarks, the AATF TELA Maize project manager, Dr. Sylvester Oikeh, said it was the beginning of a new era for maize farmers in Nigeria who have suffered greatly from drought and devastating insect pests brought about by climate change. The resources and time spent in protecting maize against insect pests will be used for other operations. The maize produced will provide healthier grains for farmers and consumers alike.
Similarly, the TELA Maize principal investigator, Prof. Rabiu Adamu, said with the deregulation, the Institute is now permitted to conduct multi-location trials to evaluate the yield and adaptability of the TELA hybrids across the different agro-ecologies in Nigeria.
“The highest yielding hybrids exhibiting tolerance to drought and resistance to stem borer and fall armyworm will be released to farmers for cultivation. We hope to register some of the outstanding hybrids to commercialize through Nigerian seed companies for farmers to grow in the 2023 rainy season.
“The deregulation will fast-track our work to achieve the mission of the project to avail farmers with transgenic maize to tackle the challenges of drought, stem borer and fall armyworm,” he said.
A statement jointly signed by the AATF communications officer, West and Central Africa, Alex Abutu and the IAR/ABU information officer, Yakubu Dodo, said the TELA Maize Project in Nigeria is part of an international consortium coordinated by AATF, involving Bayer, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the National Agricultural Research Systems of seven countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda – since 2018. The project builds on gains from a decade of excellent breeding work to develop conventional climate-smart drought-tolerant maize known as ‘DroughtTEGO’ varieties.