As Nigerian farmers await the commercial release of the two genetically modified crops, BT cotton and BT cowpea, there is an ongoing National Performance trial for the crops in over 10 locations across the country, including farmers field.
This trial is part of the requirements of the National Varietal Release Committee which is responsible to approve the release of crops into the Nigerian market.
The Country Coordinator of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Dr Rose Gidado, while speaking with journalists, noted that the multi locational trial would avail farmers the opportunity to choose between their own seed variety and the genetically modified variety.
“We are at the stage of technology deployment and commercialization. We have had two crops, the BT cotton and the BT cowpea. In 2018, BT cotton was approved for commercialization until this year, what happened was that BT cotton seeds were distributed to farmers in more than 10 states for them to plant them along side their own variety for it to sever as an evidence based trial, so that at the end of it they would see it by themselves in order to make adoption easy.
“So, we are currently carrying out demonstrations on the demonstration plots in the farmers field, so that during the harvest, the farmers would see that what we have given him is better than his own seeds”, she said.
She also said that Nigerian farmers would be trained on how to produce hybrid seeds so that they can produce the quantity they want by themselves.
“So, the farmers have been given the cotton seeds and some of them are being trained on how to produce hybrid seeds, so that in e we don’t have to import, we have to produce the seeds here by ourselves.
“If the farmers are being taught how to produce the seeds, I think it is better so that they can have enough, I think farming is all about having improved and quality seeds and having enough of it, and having it at the right time.
“High productivity high yield all depends on the seeds that we have, if you have quality seeds, the use of farm inputs will be drastically reduced because the seeds you have, some of them already have protection in them especially the BT seeds.
“Some have protection against insects, some have protection against drought, diseases, while some are for nutritional enhancement”, she said.
Dr Gidado said the BT cowpea which has been approved for environmental release by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) is also undergoing National Performance Trial before it would be approved for commercial release by the National Varietal Release Committee.
“In the case of cowpea, it is yet to be commercially approved by the Varietal Release Committee, so the cowpea is also undergoing national performance trial. It is just like in the case of cotton is it to prepare the farmers for full time commercialization in 2020.
“But the cowpea have been approved for environmental release, that means that the gene of insert has been approved by the NBMA, but NBMA is only concerned about the gene of insert, so we have other extant laws that we have to adhere to, the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) is there that regulates seeds, they have a committee that is called the National Varietal Release Committee, that for every developed seed, before it is given to farmers, they have to go through that Committee, so they have their own requirement that you have to meet, so that is where the BT Cowpea is.
“The multi locational trial of the National Performance Trial is one of the requirements that the project has to meet, so that is why the trial is going on in more than 10 states.
“The Varietal Release Committee usually before the trial is terminated, they visits the locations for them to see that the seed is actually conforming to what it was developed for, like the cowpea was developed to resist Maruca Vitrata, so they must see that the cowpea was not infested with the Maruca on field, so I think they have gone round, and their final report will be on December”, Dr Gidado said.
“The Varietal Release Committee would seat on December to deliberate on the cowpea, they usually have a technical sub committee which will look at it based on what was generated from the trial and based on the response from the farmers.
Once the Committee approves it, the next thing will be breeders seeds, Foundation seeds multiplication, seed certification by NASC before they will get seed companies that will take up the commercialization process”, she added.