Nigeria could lead Africa to innovative future in agriculture by approving GMO cowpea

Nigeria has commenced a historic process of leading other African nations on smart and innovative agriculture with the recent application seeking commercial release of the genetically modified insect-resistant cowpea.

If approved, the pod borer-resistant (PBR) cowpea will become the nation’s first genetically modified food crop….At a recent public dialogue on PBR cowpea organized by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in Abuja, Prof. Muhammad Ishiyaku, principal investigator and lead scientist of the cowpea research team, told participants  that this new variety of seed has the potential to reduce pesticide use [and] increase production by 20 percent.

The pod-borer insect (maruca) [forces] farmers to spray pesticides about six to seven times within a planting season. Farmers often cannot afford to buy these expensive pesticides, which are harmful to human health and sustainable environmental practices. But they stand to lose over 80 percent of their crop unless the insect is controlled.

Some environmental activists totally disagree with this perspective….[T]he anti-GMO campaigners have [tried] to stop release of the crop into the environment and accused the NBMA of lacking neutrality.

It is true that every new technology is bound to face suspicion and concerns, but Nigeria must be brave and overcome fear, especially when there is substantial scientific proof of safety measures in place.