Tela maize has immense economic benefits–Minister

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By Sylvester Thompson

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Mr Uche Nnaji, has assured that drought resistant, pests resilient and innovative chemicals of TELA maize have immense economic benefits.

The minister gave this assurance during a working visit to the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), where he toured the facilities  on Wednesday in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that TELA maize is the brand name for genetically modified (GM) maize hybrids developed by the TELA maize project.

The hybrids have Bt genes that provides protection against stem borer and helps the maize plant tolerate drought.

“TELA maize is drought tolerant and insect resistant; it provides protection against drought; protection against stem borers, and significant protection against Fall Army Worms (FAW).

“This innovation will counteract the annual Fall Army Worm induced losses exceeding 268 million dollars; it will also save Nigeria a significant foreign exchange in importation of maize of over 4000,000 metric tons annually.’’

Nnaji said that due to advanced genetic technology adoption by NABDA, Nigeria became the first country in the world to release Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea and the second in Africa to deregulate TELA maize for commercial release.

He said achievement in TELA maize, Bt Cotton and Cowpea were more than scientific milestones that echoed Nigeria’s determination and progressive spirit.

The minister pledged to work with the agency and other relevant agriculture and food security stakeholders to ensure that most Nigerian grain farmers had low-cost access to the innovated and profitable maize variety.

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Nnaji also hinted that the ministry would ensure that the NABDA  targeted insemination of three to five thousand cattle to elevate local breeds and set the stage for increased milk production.

He said the move would decrease Nigeria’s reliance on imports, noting that in 2022, NABDA in collaboration with international partners, inseminated over 200 cattle with a higher yielding breed from Brazil.

According to the minister, the breed yields 10 to 15 litres of milk per cow daily, up from less than one litre per day.

He acknowledged the agency’s giant strides in cutting edge biotechnology as a vibrant tool of the 21st century.

The minister said NABDA’s pioneering work in bio-energy which introduced unique equipment to assess bio-methane potentials of biomass was groundbreaking.

“This venture moves us closer to our five per cent biomass energy target and promises employment for thousands of our country’s youth and women, especially in rural areas,’’ he said.

Nnaji said further that the strides made in Bt cotton commercialisation and adopting Mahyco Bollgard II Hybrid seed would reshape the cotton industry, ensuring higher yields, enhanced quality and cost-effective management.

On his part, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director-General of the NABDA, said it was in April 2022 that former President Muhammadu Buhari signed the bill establishing the agency into law which was passed by the National Assembly.

He said the act expanded NABDA’s scope of activities, making the agency fully recognised as a research institute.

“As a result of this, the agency can create job awareness, coordinate, facilitate, deploy, domesticate and carry out research in all areas of biotechnology for the development of Nigeria,’’ he said.

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The director-general said that Nigerian scientists in the field of biosciences were delighted that Nigeria was among the comity of nations on course in the appreciation and application of modern biotechnology research.

He said the immense benefits drivable from this technology were globally acknowledged, and were as varied as the vast scope of the technology itself.

Mustapha enumerated the 37 Bioresources Centres, the six Centres of Excellence located at the premier Universities and a specialised Centre of Excellence as well as other technical departments.

“NABDA has been able to create awareness among the political class, farmers, and the public on the importance of biotechnology to our national development.

“More biotech crops are on the way and NABDA is working hand in hand with other partnering institutions to fast track the president’s Food Security Agenda,’’ Mustapha said.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Kabir Muhammad and Chijioke Okoronkwo

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