By Babajide Okeowo
The Federal Government is working with agricultural scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) to improve Tela maize production in Nigeria.
Dr. Rufus Ebegba, Director-General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), made this known in Abuja on Saturday, at the public presentation of the drought-tolerant and fall armyworm resistant maize known as Tela maize.
According to Ebegba, the government will leverage biotechnology to ensure food security in the country.Tela maize project is a public-private partnership project which aims at the commercialising transgenic drought-tolerant and insect protected maize varieties, to enhance food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He explained that Tela maize had been genetically modified, stacked with two purposes of drought tolerance and insect resistance, adding that fewer chemicals were used in the deployment of the product.In the past months, Ebegba said that NBMA had constituted a biosafety committee and a biosafety sub-technical committee to have in-depth review of the product.“We looked at it to ensure that the product does not have any negative impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biological use diversity.“Also, the institute has applied for a release permit in line with the NBMA Act,’’ he said.The director-general said that the agency had adopted the environmental release procedure to watch the maize’s performance, as it would to be planted in the environment and be used for consumption and other processes.“Every product that is released for commercial purpose must meet required biosafety standards, which include compatibility and sustainability to the environment.“It must also meet safety standards in the area of human health and economy. The agency has applied these parameters in the past months.“This presentation is for the applicant to further convince the public and the agency that the application it submitted met all requirements that the product can be considered for approval.“
The agency will not hesitate to withdraw the permit from the applicant if it finds any issue with the product in the future,’’ he added.
Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, Executive Director, IAR, assured farmers of the safety of Tela maize, adding that it had been scientifically proven in a number of experiments, including field experiments.
Ishiyaku said that the institute was planning to release the product for commercialisation in 2022.
“We have finished with the laboratory stage and have now taken the maize to the field for it to experience the real condition for farmers to grow it.
“ We have tested the product for two years and we are convinced that the outcome was as expected and would be highly beneficial to Nigerian farmers.
“Chemical will not be used to grow the maize and the variety can be grown anywhere in the country,’’ he said.Also, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), in his remarks said the future of agriculture was in biotechnology.
Mustapha noted that Tela maize would mitigate drought and insect resistance on maize, saying that the Tela maize project was very important, because the technique provided a solution to solving the problems caused by drought.
He encouraged the farmers to accept the technology and improve the production of maize in the country.