Nigeria set to deregulate TELA Maize variety, resistant to fall armyworm (FAW), stem borer, and drought
The Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba has said that the Agency will not rest on its oars in the bid to ensure only approved Genetically modified organisms are allowed in the country.
DR. Ebegba who stated this at the public presentation of tella maize for commercial release in Abuja on Friday 8th October, 2021, stated that the application for the maize which was modified for insect resistance and draught tolerance was rigorously examined by two committees after which their recommendations were made to the Agency.
He said proper risk assessment and analysis was carried and the NBMA also carried out its own internal review to ensure that the product is safe for human and health and the environment before the permit was granted.
"Apart from making it public in three national dailies, the NBMA also constituted two committees that is, the National Biosafety committee and the National Biosafety technical sub committee to do indept review of this application and submit their recommendations to the Agency".
"We looked at the analysis report presented, the nutritional composition of the product, also the risk assessment which was also looked into especially in the area of the exposure of this particular crop to the environment in oder to ensure that this product do not have any negative impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity"
Dr. Rufus Ebegba
Speaking during the public presentation of the research works, Prof. Ishiyaku Mohammed, Executive Director IAR, said that the TELA Maize variety gave on average 19 percent yield advantage relative to similar non-GM, hybrids, and 40 percent higher yield than the commercial checks under the infestation of stem borer and FAW.
Dr. Canisius Kanangire, AATF Executive Director, in a goodwill message to the meeting, said the development of TELA was because of the sufferings of farmers who over the years work very hard but reap nothing.
Dr. Kanangire said that technology gives unlimited access to overcome the numerous challenges facing farming and hindering productivity, hence the determination of AATF to ensure that African farmers have access to life-changing technologies that will make farming interesting and profitable.
Prof. Rabiu Adamu, Principal Investigator for the TELA Maize project noted that TELA Maize hybrids will reduce the use of Insecticides. Currently, the only option for farmers to control the recalcitrant pests of Maize is via chemical spray.
"The coming of TELA Maize variety will greatly improve farmers' yields and income of Nigerian farmers. Eliminating the twin challenge of Pest and drought will save Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange hitherto used to purchase chemicals".
Dr. Sylvester Oikeh, TELA Maize Project Manager from AATF said maize farmers will benefit greatly from the approval by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) for the TELA Maize hybrids to be tested with farmers for commercial release because farmers who spend over N50,000 naira per acre every season to protect their maize against these pests will be relieved.
The public presentation is one of the requirements of the NBMA that allows the public to have a say in the research process before it is deregulated and allowed to be planted across Nigeria in national performance trials with farmers, prior to being commercially released as a variety for production in Nigeria.