Africa’s most populous country has recorded a major breakthrough in crop biotechnology following official approval and registration of two Bt cotton varieties, MRC 7377 BGII and MRC 7361 BGII.

This development means farmers can now access biotech cotton seeds in addition to other conventional varieties once the permit holder multiplies the registered varieties. Nigeria also becomes the seventh African country after South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia to grant open cultivation approval for the crop.

Speaking at the official announcement in Ibadan, committee chairman chief Oladosun Awoyemi exuded confidence that the approval and registration of the GM cotton varieties will revolutionize agricultural development in the country as it leads to adoption of GM technology. Both varieties were developed by Mahyco Nigeria Private Ltd., in collaboration with the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria.

The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) director general, Rufus Ebegba, hailed the development as a victory for Nigeria and Africa. “African biosafety regulators need courage and knowledge to act in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, despite threats from those who refused to believe in the efficacy of safe science and technology,” Ebegba says.

Director general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) Alex Akpa noted the registered varieties are highly viable compared to the local conventional alternative and are capable of producing 4.1 to 4.4 tons per hectare against the local variety’s 600 to 900 kg per hectare. “With this development, Nigeria has demonstrated that it has the institutional capacity and human resources to safely deploy genetic engineering in the agricultural sector,” Akpa says.

According to Rose Gidado, country coordinator of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB), the official registration opens a new dawn for Nigeria as the country’s cotton production will boomingly increase signaling a return to cotton production.

“With the new varieties, farmers will have access to quality seeds subsequently recording over 50 percent profit. The country’s textile industry will also be revamped,” Gidado says.

Source: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.