The Federal Government of Nigeria has approved commercial release of genetically modified insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize varieties, known as TELA maize. With this latest development, GM maize now becomes the second food crop, after Bt cowpea, to be commercialized in the country.

The approval was granted by the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties, Livestock Breeds/Fisheries (NCNRRCVLF) on January 11, 2024 in Ibadan. The varieties approved are SAMMAZ 72T, SAMMAZ 73T, SAMMAZ 74T, and SAMMAZ 75T.

The new varieties are drought tolerant and are resistant to stem-borer and fall armyworm resulting in yield advantage of up to 10 tonnes per hectare under good agronomic practices. The national average for similar hybrids is 6 tonnes per hectare. The varieties are suitable for Rain Forest, Guinea, and Sudan Savannas. Stem borers reduce maize production in several countries in Africa, while fall armyworms can destroy up to 20 million metric tons of maize in Africa each year, enough to feed 100 million people.

The release and registration of the four varieties followed 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 the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). The TELA Maize Project is currently being implemented in 5 countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Dr. Sylvester Oikeh, the TELA Maize Project Manager, celebrated the decision by Nigeria by calling 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 the farmer,” he said.

For more information on this approval, see the Press Release