Nigeria Approves its First GMO Food Crop

Nigeria Approves its First GMO Food Crop

After nearly a decade of research by its own scientists, Nigeria has approved its first genetically modified (GM) food crop — pest-resistant cowpea.

The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) decision to allow the environmental release of GM cowpea affirms the crop’s safety. It also paves the way for commercializing GM cowpea and making the seeds available to farmers.

“Cowpea is the most important food grain legume in Nigeria,” said Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar, executive director of the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, which led the research. “The low yield of the crop in Nigeria is due to many constraints, particularly pod boring insects, which cause up to 90 percent yield loss in severe infestation cases.”

Cowpea is an important source of protein for millions of Nigerians and others in West Africa. Farmers typically apply pesticides six or seven times within a planting season in an attempt to control the destructive pod borer (Maruca vitrata) pest. The GM cowpea, which provides built-in resistance to the insect, will significantly decrease pesticide use, researchers said.

It will also increase yields by about 20 percent, helping Nigeria to reduce its reliance on imports and achieve food security. Nigeria currently imports about 500,000 tonnes of cowpea annually to meet demand.

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