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Nigeria and Ghana have commenced the consumption of first genetically modified BT cowpea with a view to enhancing scientific bilateral collaboration to boost food security in the West African sub-region.
Both countries said that biotechnology is a cutting-edge tool of the 21st Century that has proven to raise productivity, reduce drudgery and increase yields that bring about economic growth and development through agriculture.
At a joint press briefing on cowpea in Abuja, the Director-General, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, said the journey began 21 years ago to promote, coordinate and develop research in science and technology.
Mustapha explained that it had proven its potential to help overcome challenges of agricultural productivity, leading to more yield. For instance, BT cowpea yields about 2.9 metric tonnes per hectare while non-BT cowpea yields about 350kgs per hectare.
He said: “We are in the forefront of deploying and domesticating in the four sectors of the economy – agriculture, health, environment and industry – in order to respond positively to national aspirations on food security, job/wealth creation and affordable healthcare delivery. ”
Also, Dr. Emmanuel Marfor of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Ghana, Dr. Emmanuel Marfor, said they had endorsed Nigeria’s research on genetically modified crops that had a long history of several attempts by cowpea breeders.
“Farmers in African countries cannot attain the yield potential of our popular legumes when compared to other parts of the world.
“ While farmers in the Americas, West and Asia are getting over 10 tonnes per hectare for maize, our farmers are still struggling to attain four tonnes per hectare.
“Biotechnology is adopted and accepted globally and is on the rise, and even countries such as Great Britain, which the anti-technology crusaders have continued to cite as against the technology, has fully come on board with new law on gene edited crops.”
By Cornelius Essen, Abuja