By Sylvester Thompson
Farmers have commended the Federal Government for releasing the high yield genetically modified cowpea (beans), which they noted would boost food security.
The farmers spoke at the Biotechnology and Biosafety Stakeholders’ workshop on Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea Commercialisation, held in Abuja.
Mr Oladeninde Mustapha of the FCT Agricultural Development Project, told newsmen on the sideline of the workshop, that the yield of the genetically modified cowpea was `marvelous.’
“It is an innovation that will erase totally food shortages in Nigeria. As a farmer, I say this because it produces massively than the local variety.
“It is also pest free and this is significant because it reduces cost of agro chemicals, and I say this from experience as an agriculturist of over 30 years,’’ he said.
Mustapha who is also a mobiliser of farmers, urged government to intensify efforts to buy and distribute the seeds to the grass root farmers through appropriate channels.
“ Let them go to all the 36 states and FCT, mobilise extension agents, give out these seeds, government can subsidise it so that it can reach out to genuine farmers,’’ he said.
Mrs Judith Okpanachi, another farmer from Kwali Area Council, said when she decided to give the variety a trial, she was impressed with the yield.
She noted that what it took her to plant and harvest the variety was minimal compared to the traditional variety which she could had sprayed up to eight times before harvesting.
“I sprayed only twice and the harvest was fantastic. It took 70 days to mature.
“I planted it on Aug. 15 and started harvesting at the end of October and I had a good yield,’’ Okpanachi said.
She said if farmers had access to seeds, the variety would boost food production.
Prof. Emmanuel Kwon-Ndon, immediate past President of Genetic Society of Nigeria said, “all the research protocols went through the necessary trials to validate the safety of the crop.’’
He added that as a result, Nigeria’s Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), approved its environmental release before final release by the National Variety Release Committee.
Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), in his address at the workshop, said the commercialisation of Biotech (Bt) cotton and cowpea in Nigeria was a huge success.
He said that the scientific community developed and released varieties that met the needs of the people, address the challenges which could not be mitigated using conventional breeding methods.
Represented by Dr Rose Gidado, Deputy Director of NABDA, Mustapha said genetically enhanced products had existed in other countries for nearly three decades, using the technology to turn around agricultural productivity challenges.
Gidado, also Coordinator of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Nigeria, also gave highlights of the objectives of the workshop.
She said it was to bring together diverse representatives from farmers associations, national and international research institutes, academia, government agencies, local and international media.
She further said this was done in order to strategise on the long term sustainability of Bt cowpea that was modified to resist insect pest of maruca.
Mr Gerald Smith, Counsellor for Agricultural Affairs, United States Department of Agriculture, in his opening remarks, said thousands of farmers across Nigeria have attested to multiple benefits of the genetically modified cowpea.
He said the shortage of seeds reflected the substantial adoption of the crop.
The event was organised in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture.(NAN)