Nigerian Researchers set to distribute TELA MAIZE variety

By Zeniat Abubakar Abuja

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Efforts to avail small holder farmers in Nigeria with maize variety that combines drought tolerance, insect resistance, and other important yield and disease resistance to enhance food security in the country have started yielding positive results.

Scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research IAR, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State in collaboration with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation have completed confined field trials of TELA maize. It is a genetically modified maize variety that is resistant to the deadly fall armyworm, stem borer, and provides tolerance to moderate drought.

Speaking during the public presentation of the research works  in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital  the Executive Director, IAR, Professor Ishaiyaku Mohammed, said the TELA MAIZE variety gave on average 19 per cent yield advantage relative to similar non-Genetically Modified, hybrids and 40 per cent higher yield than the commercial checks under the infestation of stem borer and FALL ARMYWORM.

 “In line with President Muhammadu Buhari administration to utilizes science and technology to proffer solution to National progress. All that we do in  the Institute for Agricultural Research be  genetic improvement of crops such as Maize, Sorghum Cowpea, Castor, Cotton, Jatropha, Sunflower, Artemisia and Groundnut and overall farming systems of all crops in Nigeria. We always think of the farmers and the Nigerian public and the international market  which will provide income for the country”.  Professor Ishaiyaku stated.

In his remarks the Director General National Biosafety Management Agency in Nigeria, NBMA, Dr. Rufus Ebegba said the public presentation of the TELA MAIZE is to give confidence of the decisions the Agency will take and also the process as a whole and maintain that the health of the Nigerian citizens as well as safety of the environment and Biodiversity remains the Agency priority.

 “The issues of Biosafety are very sensitive we are aware of the controversy that always trail Genetically Modified organisms on that note we have introduced the need for public hearing for members of the public to note what we are doing and also to give opportunity for the Applicants to speak to the members of the public, what the product is all about, how relevant it is to our Nation’s economy and also what are the safety measures that have been taken to ensure  that the process is safe in the environment and human lives.” Dr. Ebegba stated.

Dr. Ebegba said every product released for commercial purposes must meet required Biosafety standards this include compatibility and sustainable to the environment, and must meets safety standards in the area of human health and also boost the Nigerian economy.

 

“The procedures and processes that have taken place at the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA when we got the Application, we already had three public advert telling members of the public that we have an application for commercial release for Genetically Modified Maize also known as TELA MAIZE, this Maize it stark with two kinds of genes for two purposes one is for Drought tolerance and insect resistance. In the area of “FALL ARMYWORM” to ensure that less chemicals are used in the deployment of these product. It is expected that if the product is approved the use of control of insect by use of chemicals may highly reduced in great percentage.” He explained.

The NBMA, Boss noted that the National Biosafety Management Agency, also constituted two Committees, the National Biosafety Committee and National Sub Technical Committee  to do an in-depth review of the supervision and they have submitted their various reports and recommendations to the Agency.

“According to him, The Agency has equally done in house review of the application as well, looking at the comparative analysis report presented, the Nutritional composition of the product, the risk assessment which also looked into the area of exposure of this particular product to the environment, to ensure that the product do not have any negative impact on the conservation and sustainable used of Biological Diversity.”

He said the presentation is for the applicant to further convinced the public and the Agency that the application they filed before the Agency has made all requirement that can be considered for approval and the product would be useful to public.

“All the information you have presented it is very important that Africa should be transparent at all times to ensure that these product do not have any negative impact on the conservation of Biological Diversity, but if there be any reason in future for this  the Agency will not hesitate to withdrawal.” Dr. Ebegba said.

Dr. Ebegba added that the NBMA will continue to work with Stakeholders and other Ministries and Agencies and also remain committed to the mandate in which the agency was created.

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AATF Executive Director, Dr. Canisius Kanangire, in a goodwill message to the meeting, said the development of TELA was because of the sufferings of farmers who worked very hard but reaped nothing.

 Kanangire said the technology will provides an avenue to overcome the numerous challenges facing farming and hindering productivity, hence the determination of AATF to ensure that African farmers have access to life-changing technologies that make farming interesting and profitable.

The Principal Investigator for the TELA MAIZE project, Professor. Rabiu Adamu noted that TELA MAIZE hybrids will reduce the use of insecticides. He said currently, the only option for farmers to control the recalcitrant maize pest is the chemical spray.

 “The coming of TELA MAIZE variety will greatly improve farmers’ yields and income of Nigerian farmers. Eliminating the twin challenge of pests and drought will save Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange used to purchase chemicals,” Professor Adamu stated.

In his remarks, the TELA MAIZE project manager, AATF, Dr. Sylvester Oikeh, said maize farmers will benefit greatly from the approval by the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA for the TELA MAIZE hybrids to be tested with farmers for commercial release because farmers who spend over fifty thousand Naira per acre every season to protect their maize against these pests will be relieved.

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