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FG approves import of genetically modified wheat from Argentina

The Federal Government has approved the importation of drought-resistant, genetically modified wheat developed by Argentina’s Bioceres. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, the imports will reach 6.5 million tonnes of the grain through the 2022-2023 season. The permit issued by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) authorises the import of genetically modified wheat: IND-00412-7 — for food, animal feed and milling” and is valid through July 2025. It was revealed that the country had joined Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, among other countries, which have already authorised the importation of goods made from Bioceres.

In 2020, genetically modified wheat was approved by the Argentine Government. However, earlier this year, it authorised the sale of seeds of the GMO wheat to farmers. Also, to further boost the grain production, the NBDA has began a trial phase for the new TELA maize in some states to understudy the variety among farmers.

The Deputy Director of the agency, Rose Gidado, said in Lagos recently that farmers would start planting the crop during this year’s planting season. Tela maize is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crop variety designed to resist insect pests like fall armyworms and stem-borers and to tolerate moderate drought. In 2021, the Federal Government, through NBDA, granted environmental approval for the evaluation and open cultivation of new maize variety crop.

The crop was developed by the Institute for Agricultural Research, (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in collaboration with African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Kenya and National Biotechnology Development Agency. Gidado noted that the IAR in ABU, which had the mandate for maize improvement, had started distributing the seeds to farmers. The deputy director noted that the maize would undergo two trial cycles in 2022 and 2023 before it would be recommended for commercialisation. According to her, investigation trials on the Tela maize are now on-going in some states such as Adamawa, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa. She said: “The planting season is just beginning and they are just distributing the seeds to farmers. The farmers will plant the maize alongside other varieties, and then at the end of the harvest, the farmers will know which seed is better. “For now, we cannot determine the level of acceptability because it needs to undergo two trial cycles before it can be recommended for possible commercialisation.

“We want the farmers to speak for themselves, we don’t want to put words in their mouths and the trials will do justice to it.” It would be recalled that the Farmers Association of Nigeria (FAN) had said that Nigerian farmers produced no fewer than 20 million tonnes of maize in 2021, up from eight million tonnes in 2015, a 150 per cent rise.

The Association’s National President, Alhaji Bello Abubakar, said at the palace of the Emir of Katsina that maize production in the country had increased, adding that this was achieved through the introduction of farmers to the modern farming system by the association. He noted: “They have learned what is called mechanisation, from the beginning to cultivation, through the use of machines.”

Abubakar explained that no fewer than 500,000 maize farmers had benefited from the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, adding that no fewer than 80,000 had benefited from Katsina. The president stressed that the visit to the palace of Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumin Kabir, was to seek more support from the emir and also engage traditional leaders in the CBN’s anchor borrowers programme so that farmers in the grassroots could benefit. In his response, the emir commended the association’s support for farmers in Nigeria, calling on them to be formidable and not allow politicians to destroy the programme.

 

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