FG Approves Commercialisation Of Four New Maize Varieties 

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The Federal government has approved four transgenic insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize varieties known as TELA maize, for commercialisation.

The approval was granted by the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties, Livestock Breeds/Fisheries (NCNRRCVLF) headed by Prof. Olusoji Olufajo at its 33rd meeting at the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), Ibadan.

The four varieties approved by the NVRC are SAMMAZ 72T, SAMMAZ 73T, SAMMAZ 74T, and SAMMAZ 75T.

The new maize varieties which are Genetically Modified (GM) are drought tolerant and are resistant to stem-borer and fall armyworm resulting in a yield advantage of up to 10 tonnes per hectare under good agronomic practices.

The national average for similar hybrids is six tonnes per hectare. The varieties are suitable for rainforests, Guinea, and Sudan Savannas.

Stem borers attack maize on the farm, reducing production in several countries in Africa, while fall armyworm is capable of destroying up to 20 million metric tonnes of maize in Africa each year, enough to feed 100 million people.

The release and registration of the four varieties became possible after environmental release approval in October 2021 granted by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).

Development of the improved varieties was led by the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Samaru, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria through the TELA Maize Public-Private Partnership coordinated by AATF.

The TELA Maize Project is currently being implemented in five countries, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Prof. Ado Yusuf, Executive Director, of IAR, who expressed satisfaction with the release of the new four maize varieties said, “IAR is very proud of our scientists who are addressing the maize productivity challenges in the country and beyond.

These varieties have undergone thorough research and have been developed using the tools of biotechnology over several years of continuous testing and revalidation.”

Dr. Canisius Kanangire, AATF’s Executive Director, on his part, said, “The release of TELA Maize in Nigeria will contribute to food and nutrition security in line with the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation agenda.

AATF reaffirms an unwavering commitment to addressing challenges faced by farmers across the continent.”

Prof. Garba Sharubutu, the Executive Secretary, of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), said the approval of the TELA Maize variety in Nigeria is a critical milestone that confirms the potential of biotechnology in ensuring food and nutrition security, and improved livelihood of farming households in Africa.

Also, Prof. Mustapha Abdullahi, Director General, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), was upbeat about the release saying that, with the advent of TELA Maize, farmers will reduce the use of pesticides on maize to the barest minimum, which is beneficial to humans, livestock and the environment.

The TELA Maize Project Manager, Dr. Sylvester Oikeh, expressed satisfaction over the decision by Nigeria and called on other countries in Africa to act for farmers.

“I am encouraged by this decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria that reflects their commitment to the needs of farmers.

“I congratulate the scientists for their hard work and dedication that has seen the product getting closer to farmers and look forward to other countries making similar decisions for the good of farmers,” he said.

The other partners in the TELA Maize project include National Agricultural Research Institutes in Kenya, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and South Africa; the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT); and Bayer, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.

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