TELA Maize, a genetically modified maize variety that exhibits resistance against insects and drought, has been granted official approval by the Federal Government for its commercial release and open cultivation. In addition to TELA Maize, various other high-yielding crop varieties have also received the government’s endorsement. During a press briefing held in the capital city of Abuja, Minister Uche Nnaji, who holds the esteemed position of a Chief and oversees the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology, made an announcement on January 23, 2024.
In Nigeria, the minister expressed his admiration for the momentous achievement of commercially launching the crops, which brought about a significant advancement in agricultural efficiency to ensure that the country attains self-sufficiency in food production. The ministry’s dedication to utilizing biotechnology to tackle urgent agricultural hurdles, bolstering the endurance of crops, and enhancing the lives of the country’s farmers and citizens is aptly showcased by this, portraying their unwavering commitment. The minister emphasized that the ministry’s presence within the agricultural sector not only solidifies the country’s position and ensures economic stability, but it also creates opportunities to explore untapped avenues for trade and export, the minister declared.
There is the potential for higher crop productivity.
According to Nnaji, the release had extensive advantages that would lead to various positive outcomes. These included the potential for higher crop productivity, improved ability to withstand pest and disease attacks, decreased harm to the environment, and enriched nutritional value. In order to ensure a prosperous, sustainable, and food secure future for the country, he called upon a wide range of individuals involved in the agricultural industry – ranging from farmers and extension workers to private sector partners – to fully embrace the new crop varieties.
Furthermore, he emphasized the remarkable contribution of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in propelling advancements within the agricultural domain. The accelerated progress is primarily owed to the invaluable contributions of visionary scientists, diligent researchers, proficient experts, esteemed institutions, and fruitful international partnerships. The firm determination of Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, the Director General at NABDA, is to stick firmly to the agency’s commitment in effectively harnessing the power of biotechnology. This resolute stance is aimed at overcoming the multifaceted socioeconomic obstacles that hinder the advancement of sustainable national development.
AATF is at the forefront of the TELA Maize Project.
He stated that by adopting this approach, NABDA had established itself in a position that would enable it to make a valuable contribution towards the country’s economic development. According to report, the development known as the TELA Maize initiative stems from the application of contemporary biotechnology in the field of agriculture. The collaborative effort of the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) led to the creation of this ground-breaking product.
As stated by specialists, adopting transgenic maize seed cultivation could potentially result in an impressive increase of up to 10 tons per hectare, surpassing the yield of six tons achieved through conventional hybrid methods. This revolutionary approach is anticipated to bring about abundant harvests. AATF is at the forefront of the TELA Maize Project, an initiative tackling the issues of drought in maize and combatting destructive pests like stemborers and fall armyworms. Thanks to the generous backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, alongside the support from the United States Agency for International Development, this public-private partnership is spearheading efforts to find effective solutions.
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The presence of stemborers in various African nations has led to a decline in maize production, resulting in a substantial loss. In the case of Kenya, this loss accounts for 13% of their overall production or approximately 400,000 tonnes annually, equating to a financial setback of around $90 million. Likewise, experts anticipate that the Fall Armyworm poses a major threat, potentially annihilating a staggering 20 million metric tons of maize across Africa each year. This quantity of maize would be sufficient to nourish 100 million individuals. The primary focus of the TELA Project revolves around bolstering food security in Sub-Saharan Africa through the commercialization of genetically modified maize varieties capable of withstanding drought and resisting insects.