Tag Archives: GMO

Nigeria Presents First Home Grown Genetically Modified Crop

After years of research, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) presents to Nigerians Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea. The first home-grown Genetically Modified crop in Nigeria.

PBR Cowpea has been under research for the last 8 years and according to the Executive Secretary of the ARCN, Professor Ambrose Voh, PBR Cowpea has passed all scientific tests and poses no danger to humans or the environment.

The National Agriculture Research System (NARS) has also declared the crop safe as the country prepares to commercialize it.

The cowpea was genetically modified to resistant pod borer called Maruca which reduces farmers’ yield as much as 80%.

The Maruca vitrata is a major Lepidopteran pest that inflicts severe damage to the cowpea plant.

The PBR project was carried out in four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa-Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Malawi. Several Confined Field Trials, (CFT) was conducted annually in Nigeria, since 2009; Burkina Faso since 2011; and Ghana since 2013. Efficacy and agronomic potential of the genes was evaluated.

The PBR trait was introduced into some farmer preferred cowpea varieties through conventional breeding and the efficacy of the trait was evaluated in multi-location CFTs in Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

In line with regulatory requirements, farmers in Nigeria across three locations were involved in the evaluation of the cowpea seeds. In addition, various environmental and food/feed safety assessments were conducted.

The Principal Investigator of the PBR Cowpea, Prof. Mohammed Ishiaku of the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria said that if the PBR Cowpea is grown by one third of Nigerian Cowpea fields, the nation would save N16 billion from the cost of insecticide alone.

He added that if there was 20% increase yield over normal non-resistant Cowpea, the nation would get financial benefit not less than N48 billion every year.

The Pod-borer Resistant Cowpea Project is a public private partnership coordinated by African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), with the funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to promote technological interventions that will optimise cowpea productivity and utilisation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Kudos to African biotechnologists for this big step in the advancement of biotechnology as a tool to ensure food security in Africa. This achievement demonstrates the ideology, Biotechnology for African by Africans.

This approach is the best way to encourage Africans to embrace GMOs by showing them that it is not a western conspiracy to harm Africans but a Scientific solution Africans can use to solve food problems by themselves.

When we do our own researches using our own researchers to solve our own problems we would not need GMOs from companies with bad reputation like Monsanto or be entangled in their dirty dealings and politics.

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Archives Reveal Why Africa Should not Depend on Monsanto for GMOs

New innovations in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry must pass through trials to find out the effectiveness and side effects. The innovation is given a Go, if the benefits way outweighs the side effects, if not it is taken back to the lab for more research.

While Food biotechnology may be the solution to food insecurity in Africa through GMOs, Africa must research, develop, produce the GMOs themselves. African nations must understand the innovation enough to be able to decide whether it should be adopted or modified to benefit  their citizens.

Read: Biotechnology – Solving Nigeria’s Food Insecurity Challenges

The health and well-being of Africans cannot be left in the hands of profit-at-all-cost multinationals who may want to use Africans as guinea pigs for new innovations. As much as trials are a big part of research and development (R&D), African countries must carry it out themselves for themselves.

Read: Genome Editing – An Opportunity for Crop Improvement in Africa

It is time for African countries to build their own biotech industry, not only because the future will depend on it, but mainly because multinationals like  Monsanto cannot be trusted as  investigation has shown that the food biotech company based in the United State has endangered people’s health just for profit. The Guardian reported that Monsanto sold banned chemicals for years despite known health risks, archives reveal.

Read: Africa Must Produce its Own Technology

It was reported that Monsanto continued to produce and sell toxic industrial chemicals known as PCBs for eight years after learning that they posed hazards to public health and the environment, according to legal analysis of documents put online in a vast searchable archive.

According to The Guardian, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are long-lived pollutants that were mass-produced by Monsanto between 1935 and 1977 for use as coolants and lubricators in electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors.

By 1979, they had been completely banned in the US and elsewhere, after a weight of evidence linking them to health ailments that ranged from chloracne and Yusho (rice oil disease) to cancer, and to environmental harm.

Yet a decade earlier, one Monsanto pollution abatement plan in the archive from October 1969, singled out by Sherman, suggests that Monsanto was even then aware of the risks posed by PCB use.

More than 20,000 internal memos, minuted meetings, letters and other documents have been published in the new archive revealed, many for the first time.

Read: Is Genetically Engineered Food Good For You

Most were obtained from legal discovery and access to documents requests digitized by the Poison Papers Project, which was launched by the Bioscience Resource Project and the Center for Media and Democracy. Chiron Return contributed some documents to the library.

Bill Sherman, the assistant attorney general for the US state of Washington – which is suing Monsanto for PCB clean-up costs potentially worth billions of dollars – said the archive contained damning evidence the state had previously been unaware of.

He told the Guardian: “If authentic, these records confirm that Monsanto knew that their PCBs were harmful and pervasive in the environment, and kept selling them in spite of that fact. They knew the dangers, but hid them from the public in order to profit.”

Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy, Scott Partridge, did not dispute the authenticity of the documents revealed in the online cache but denied any impropriety.

He told the Guardian: “More than 40 years ago, the former Monsanto voluntarily stopped production and sale of PCBs prior to any federal requirement to do so. At the time Monsanto manufactured PCBs, they were a legal and approved product used in many useful applications. Monsanto has no liability for pollution caused by those who used or discharged PCBs into the environment.”

Bio-Hacking: We Can Now Have Milk Without Cows and Eggs Without Chickens

“Bio-hacking” makes it possible to produce milk without cows and eggs without chickens. So-called synthetic biology could revolutionize food systems to more sustainably feed 7 billion,” says Hannes Sjoblad, a Swedish bio-hacker activist and Chief Disruption Officer at Epicenter in Stockholm.

Read: Biotechnology – Solving Nigeria’s Food Insecurity Challenges

Bio-hacking applies technology in creative ways to change biological systems like cells, plants, animals – and Homo sapiens. Hannes Sjoblad believes bio-hacking can revolutionize food production systems to help sustainably feed a growing global population.

According to Hannes Sjoblad, “the current food production systems on the planet simply cannot sustain 7 billion inhabitants who would like to have the type of diet that you and I are used to. The current way of doing things is not sustainable. We are over-fishing, we are polluting, we’re cutting down rain-forests to feed beef cows – it’s absolutely not sustainable. And for me, the solution is not politics. The solution is not a citizen or a consumer activism. The solution must be technology.”

Image Credit: DW

He believes using digital biology technique to produce milk in-vitro for instance, and that “we can make the milk production process 10 to 100 times more energy-efficient. Entrepreneurs can modify the genes of yeast cells to make them produce milk. So we can now produce milk without cows.” There are now a lot of startups in this field that is called Digital Biology or Synthetic Biology.

Read: Is Genetically Engineered Food Good For You

“Bio-hacking is a fairly new practice that could lead to major changes in our life. You could call it citizen or do-it-your-self biology. It takes place in small labs — mostly non-university — where all sorts of people get together to explore biology. That could mean figuring out how the DNA in plants affects their growth, or how to manipulate genes from another source to make a plant glow in the dark. It often is aimed at producing a product, like the chairs and building blocks that artist Philip Ross makes by feeding mushrooms a meal of sawdust or peanut shavings. It is experimenting on the cheap, usually without the benefit of a fancy university laboratory, and it often involves DNA and genes. If you don’t know enough biology to take part at first, you learn it along the way.” Explained Spencer Michels, a correspondent and producer in the San Francisco office of the PBS News Hour.

Source: DW, PBS