The Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea developed by the Institute of Agriculture Research (IAR) has been approved for environmental release by the Federal Government.
This is in light of the National Biosafety Management Agency’s (NBMA) issuance of an approval granting permit for the release of the PBR once it had been genetically modified and proven to be safe for humans.
The IAR in collaboration with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) had begun research for the cowpea in 2009 to combat the Maruca Vitrata attacks on beans.
Executive Director of IAR, Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar, in Abuja, gave an insight into agitations that brought about the creation of the PBR cowpea.
According to him, it was as a result of uncontrollable pest infestation that had occurred over the years making survival challenging for cowpea farmers in Nigeria.
“Cowpea is the most important food grain legume in Nigeria. 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. The PBR Cowpea, by this development, becomes the first genetically modified food crop to be approved in the country”, he said.
The Director of Plant Resources, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Dr. Yarama Ndipaya also said the government has accepted the inclusion of the crop as part of the country’s agricultural seed system.
In his words, “After many years of research, the council is proud to present to Nigerians the first home-grown genetically modified food crop, which has passed all necessary scientific tests and posed no danger to human health or the environment. The introduction will address the national cowpea demand deficit of about 500,000 tonnes and improve the national productivity average of 350kg/hectare.
“As the coordinating agency for the over 15 agricultural research institutes in Nigeria, we have identified modern biotechnology as one scientific tool whose potential can help improve crop and animal production. We have done this with all sense of responsibility, bearing in mind both national and international protocols that guide the deployment of genetic modification”.