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Experts urge farmers to adopt technologies

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By Usman Oladimeji

Commercial release of TELA Maize hybrids would profit farmers.

Farmers have been advised by an expert group of agriculturists to adopt emerging technologies as a means of increasing their level of output in order to keep up with the increasing demands of the population for food and feed for livestock. This recommendation was made during a town hall meeting that was held in Kaduna with maize farmers, marketers, and processors involved in the value chain. Primary focus of the gathering was on the safety and advantages of TELA maize.

Prof. Rabiu Adamu, the lead investigator of TELA maize, spoke on the topic, “Importance of Maize in the Nigerian Economy: Role of TELA Maize,” noting that Nigeria is Africa’s second-largest producer and consumers, behind only South Africa. He mentioned that Nigeria had a staggering production of 11.6 million metric tons in 2020. Adamu outlined the advantages of TELA Maize, among which are increased resilience in the face of drought, resistance to stem borers, and substantial protection from fall armyworms (FAW).

GM crops commercially approved are safe for consumption.

He stressed the financial benefits that TELA maize will bring to farmers by eliminating their need for and use of unsafe insecticides and pesticides. Enhanced yields and grain quality would lead to increased profits and higher prices for these products, effectively reversing the financial setbacks experienced by Nigerian farmers due to fall armyworms in previous years, which amounted to over $268 million in losses. Prof. Rabiu continued by noting that farmers would considerably profit from the commercial release of TELA Maize hybrids (MON 87460, MON 89034, and MON 810).

Dr. Sylvester Oikeh, manager of the AATF TELA maize project, discussed recent developments in the development and distribution of climate-resilient varieties for farmers in Africa. He reassured the public that commercially approved GM crops are safe. Oikeh referred to the European Food Safety Authority’s finding that multi-GMO trait biotech corn is safe for human health and environment. Dr. Sylvester underlined the economic benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops in his talk, citing the fact that farmers in developing nations earn $5.06 for every additional dollar invested on biotech crop seeds.

Hybrids and seed quality are vital for productivity.

From 2001 to 2018, he said, GM white maize had saved South Africa $695 million by lowering environmental harm by about $292,000 per year compared to conventional hybrid white corn. Dr. Sylvester stressed that biotech crops that have been approved are completely safe for humans, livestock, and the environment. To combat food insecurity and the adversity of NGOs against GMOs in Africa, he advocated for more support for GM technology from African governments and encouraged them to adopt biotechnology, among other technologies.

In her address, Prof. Maimuna Mohammed Abdulmalik (RAO), discussed the impacts of drought on productivity, saying that drought is a major abiotic stressor that can negatively affect human health and crop yields. She mentioned that between 2005 and 2015, developing nations lost $29 billion due to direct agricultural losses brought on by drought. In order to maintain output, Prof. Maimuna said there is an immediate need for drought-tolerant varieties like TELA maize. Also speaking, Dr. Oyekunle discussed the significance of hybrids and seed quality for productivity and thus, encouraged farmers to embrace these seeds.

Nigeria is making good progress toward commercializing GM.

Moreover, he went over the many ways in which high-quality seeds help, such as through more consistent crop yields, less time spent in post-harvest processing, and better final product quality. Dr. Rose Gidado, director of the Agricultural Biotechnology Department at the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), stated that the country was making good progress toward commercializing genetically modified (GM) crops like Bt cotton and PBR cowpea. She also gives assurance to the participants that consuming genetically modified (GM) crops is safe.

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