Despite opposition, institute to commence trial on genetically modified cassava in Nigeria


Despite opposition by some civic groups, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, said it is to carry out confined field trials, CFT, on genetically modified cassava.

In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, the Institute said it had received permission to carry out the research in collaboration with ETHZ Plant Biotechnology Laboratory in Zurich.

It said CFT permit was issued by the National Biosafety Management Agency in accordance with the National Biosafety Agency Act 2015 and is for the period September 22, 2017 to December 31, 2018.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how an anti-GMO coalition in Nigeria condemned the permit issues by the biosafety agency saying it is harmful on the country’s food security.

“Among our concerns is the fact that the genetic engineering technique used by IITA and ETZ to product this cassava has never been approved anywhere else in the world. This effectively makes Nigeria a testing field for risky, unregulated technologies,” the opposing groups said.

The Institute, however, said the exercise was aimed at reducing starch breakdown in storage roots of cassava after pruning the shoots, prior to harvest of the crop.

A spokesperson of the Institute, Katherine Lopez, said the objective of the field trials is to obtain storage roots with lower post-harvest physiological degradation without any loss of the nutritious starch.

Cassava is an important starchy food crop in sub-Saharan Africa as well as other tropical and subtropical regions.

However, one of the challenges faced by cassava farmers is the high level of postharvest loss caused by rapid deterioration of the starch-rich roots, which occurs naturally after harvesting.

Although the post-harvest deterioration could be reduced by pruning the shoots of cassava plants without unearthing the roots, researchers say that poses a problem as the desirable starch stored in the root could be degraded by the plant after pruning, which in turn lowers the harvest yield and root quality.

To address this problem, the IITA said a research project was conceived at ETH Zurich where cassava plants using cultivar 60444 were generated using RNAi as the tool to try to reduce starch breakdown in the root after pruning of the shoots.

Ms. Lopez said extensive testing was carried out in greenhouses in Switzerland, where the plants were grown for three consecutive years.

“Our greenhouse experiments were an important first step, but they cannot substitute for genuine field conditions,” said Samuel Zeema, a professor in the institute.

“Hence, it is necessary to grow the plants in a tropical climate such as that of Nigeria. IITA is an excellently equipped and well-staffed institute at which to perform such a confined field trial.”

IITA adheres strictly to national and international biosafety standards and will ensure that these are enforced during the trials, which will be carried out within the IITA campus in Ibadan.

The research is a fact gathering process to gain fundamental knowledge about starch metabolism in the storage root and about cassava as a crop. The cassava plants from the confined field trial are not destined for the market nor for commercial development and therefore will not be consumed, the institute said. It added that according to national regulations, all plants will be destroyed within the CFT site after analysis.

As part of the experiment, regrowth of stem cuttings from the plants will also be assessed, since regrowth may also depend on starch stored in the stem.

The IITA is an institution that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation.

Working with various partners across sub-Saharan Africa, IITA said it improves livelihoods, enhances food and nutrition security, increases employment, and preserves natural resource integrity.

IITA is a member of CGIAR, a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future.


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  • Watch man

    IITA and CGIAR are the creation of Rockefeller and Ford foundation in the early 70s’. The duo are the main sponsors of GM products. I have said it before that the test will end up saying there is nothing wrong with GM cassava. Unfortunately the criminals at the bio-Agency will collect bribe and throw caution to the wind irrespective of how harmful the GM products may be.

    • GusO

      Yes, that is the problem with Nigeria. Educated people such as professors are not immune from taking bribes and after taking bribes, they are trying to shove GM products down our throats. Nigeria is a sorry state.

  • Dan maikoko

    Who ever you assume to be the great architect of the dome we live in must be a Perfect Creator. Arrogant humans with limited knowledge have thrown all caution to the wind and tried in the 50’s to destroy the dome using high altitude nuclear weapons but failed. Now they are down to earth trying to wreck havoc on the genetic blueprint of life. GMO in Nigeria will be a major disaster for Africa. Epigenetic theory has shown that genes are influenced by the environment and the primary environment of genetic interaction for us is our food. This cassava is as good as approved in the corrupt, ignorant Nigerian bureaucracy. the rest of us must pray hard.

  • Mama Kay

    These people are hell bent on killing Nigerians. Why mend what isn’t broken? Everything in life must perish, so why do you want cassava that doesn’t perish?

    Anyway, be very careful because when you throw stones in a market, you don’t know who will be hit.

    Do Swiss eat cassava? The problem with African leaders is they think anyone who has European skin is bringing them good when history shows all they bring is evil. When will they realise that there’s a big conspiracy to reduce the number of Africans in the world. The experiment with the AIDS virus failed spectacularly as it ended up killing them as much as Africans, now it’s time to go for GMO which is banned in Europe.

    The first casualty may well be these bribed IITA people.

  • Ajuwon Oluseye

    Please, this research should be monitored properly to ensure that some elements did not get the stem to the market at the end of the research. We do not need any GMD crop in Nigeria, at least for now.