gm-foodsThree genetically modified agricultural crops are currently under confined field trials in Nigeria, Dr Rufus Ebegba, the Director-General, National Bio-safety Management Agency (NBMA), has said.

Ebegba disclosed this when he featured at a NAN forum in Abuja on Thursday.

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He said that the crops are cowpea, sorghum and rice.

The director-general said the trials commenced in 2009 and 2013 respectively at the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) Zaria, Kaduna and National Cereals Research Institute, Badeggi, Niger State.

“Presently we have about three crops on confined field trials, but before now, we had six. Some of them have been completed.

“Presently, we have the insect resistant beans known as cowpea at the Institute of Agricultural Research Zaria.

“We also have in Zaria, Africa Bio-fortified Sorghum modified in a way that it can now produce iron, zinc and protein and also has the ability to produce vitamin A. The essence is to increase the nutritional content.

“With the result we are getting from these tests so far, the beans now has the ability to produce up to four times its original yield.

“The safety data is also being collected. Before that beans will be allowed, it will go through nutritional analysis to ensure that there are no toxins.

“The rice has been genetically modified to use less nitrogen fertiliser and less water,’’ he said.

According to him, when this is successful, it will reduce the cost of fertiliser that is being applied to the farm as well as reduce the money spent to grow such variety of rice.

GM foods will be optional

Ebegba assured Nigerians that consumption of GMO foods would be a choice, as they would be properly labelled.

“Once we are able to confirm that the modification is efficacious and safety is ascertained, we have no reason not to advise Nigerians. Only those who are interested will consume it.

“Genetic engineering is not meant to turn all crops to GMO. It is the ones whose specific problems can’t be solved through conventional methods that will undergo genetic engineering.’’