By admin       2018-08-09

The first Nigerian genetically modified crop was approved for commercial use a fortnight ago. The National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Materials officially announced the release of pest-resistant cotton commonly known as bt cotton as the nation’s first Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crop.GMO is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.Chairman of the Committee, Chief Oladosun Awoyemi, who announced the approval in Ibadan, said GM cotton would revolutionize the nation’s agriculture and textile sectors and could lead to future adoption of GM technology in the country. Nigeria’s two homegrown cotton varieties — MRC 7377 BG 11 and MRC 7361 BG 11 — were developed by Mahyco Nigeria Private Ltd. in collaboration with the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The cotton has been genetically modified to include a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis — a soil bacterium used extensively for pest control in organic agriculture — to provide pest resistance within the plant itself.There have been divergent views on whether the country should adopt GMO crops or outrightly reject the concept being championed by a US-based agro-chemical, Monsanto.Proponents of GMO crops believe that they reduce the pest damage by increasing the resistance of the plant, which leads to increase in yield and productivity and simultaneously reduce the usage of pesticides which leads to reduction in cost.However, those against it believe that GMO crops have long, negative effects on humans and that they are costly for rural farmers.It was even believed that the minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has been opposing the adoption of GMO crops in the country through his actions.Stakeholders who spoke with our Agric Editor, who has been monitoring the situation, believe the adoption of GM cotton for commercial purpose may not pose much danger to the country’s environment, partly because cotton is not directly consumed by man. Mr. Anibe Achimugu, president of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), insisted that Bt Cotton has no negative impact on Nigeria’s environment.“The Institute of Agricultural Research in Zaria conducted the trial and gave the report. It has been going on for two to three years and so far the impact has not been negative on the environment.“Globally all the cotton growing countries are using BT Cotton. America, India, China and Australia that have one of the best are all using BT Cotton,’’ he said.Mr. Achimugu, who is also a cotton farmer, told Daily Trust that Bt Cotton, is a genetically modified cotton that has self-defense mechanisms to battle insects and pests that attack cotton balls.“Bt Cotton is expected to give us higher yield and better quality of fiber, and reduce our cost of production and use of agro chemicals. Typically, we spray six or seven times in a farming year but according to what we are hearing, we will be now spraying only twice or less. There is cost reduction there as well,’’ he noted.Also, Prof. Alex Akpa, the Acting Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), told journalists that the new varieties are suitable for cultivation in all of Nigeria’s cotton growing zones and that in addition to the pest-resistant traits, they offer early maturity, fiber length of 30.0 to 30.5 millimeters and fiber strength of 26.5 to 27.0g/tex (tenacity) and micronaire (strength) of 3.9 to 4.1.But Mr. Toyin Ajayi, an agriculturist, warned that the Bt seeds might be, in the long run, too expensive for small-rural farmers to access.He also said bollworm, which is the major pest attacking cotton, may in the long run, develop resistance to the Bt Cotton and we may be back to where we started.Mr. Ajayi, however, said the fear of its health implication might not be visible because human beings do not consume cotton directly.

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