EIAR advances approval of BtGt Cotton for environmental release

The environmental release of BtGt cotton is shortly to be approved by the National Variety Release Council (NVRC), a council made up of many stakeholders in the agricultural and related areas.

Through the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research (EIAR), Ethiopian researchers have been processing and testing genetically modified organism (GMO) cotton for around 15 years.

Four seed variants with characteristics for herbicide and bollworm pest resistance have been evaluated in confined field trials (CFT) on BtGt cotton before being tabled for environmental release.

At the CFT test locations in Gewane, Weyto, Metema, Omorate, and Melka Werer, four types have been engaged.

According to Dereje Girma, Director of the EIAR’s Agri-biotechnology Directorate, Sudan, Pakistan, India, and Uzbekistan all utilize these seed varieties.

One of the senior researchers, Dejene, said that the test at CFT had positive findings.

In order to obtain input before releasing the varieties, the Ethiopia Environmental Authority recently called a public hearing as the last phase in the procedure.

Based on the information that Capital was able to obtain, the public hearing concluded over a week ago.

Dejene claims that two of the four seed varieties that were evaluated throughout the trials have been chosen for the environmental release application.

Bollworms are a severe insect problem in cotton cultivation that may reduce output by up to 50%.

In a similar vein, pesticides and disease are other problems facing the industry. To avoid the threat, major cotton-producing nations like Brazil are turning to genetically modified seeds.

The goals in Ethiopia were to evaluate the effectiveness of the Bt trait in the lab, as well as the performance of the BtGt hybrid cotton in resisting glyphosate herbicides and bollworms.

Additionally, the goal was to ascertain the adaptability, yield response, and fiber quality of the crop.

A sustained supply of the product is also necessary for the nation that sought to lead Africa’s textile and apparel sector.

The fact that GMO seed varieties that were illegally imported are already in use is one of the grounds for doing intensive study in this field.

According to the test conducted at the CFT, the productivity of GMO cottons ranges from 48 to 57 quintal per hectare, or around 32 quintal more than the yields of local types.

In 2022, EIAR and Black Stone Ethiopia Private Limited inked a public-private partnership until whereby the latter will import the technology and the institute would be responsible for scientific research.

“Black Stone will carry out the activity locally starting from the upcoming year, while for this season it may import and disperse the seeds since it does not have ample time for multiplication,” Dejene says, “As per the agreement, the company will multiply the seed locally, which is vital to tackle the hard currency issues and release for farmers.”The NVRC’s approval of the environmental release request would be a significant development for individuals who have been involved in the industry for a while, as well as the cotton agricultural sector, which is regarded as one of the key areas for the expansion of the national economy in general, according to sector experts.

Ethiopian cotton farmers are now able to use the illicitly imported genetically modified cotton that was smuggled out of Sudan.

According to Samson Assefa, Lead Executive for Cotton Development at the Ministry of Agriculture, farmers are very interested in GMO cotton that is being imported illegally since they know it has a big productivity boost.

“GMO cotton shall tackle bollworms and glyphosate herbicides problem, which is why big investors and farmers prefer it. The most recent action, if accepted by the committee, will make the usage of GMOs lawful,” he continued.

Samson states, “I can say it is 100 percent illegal Bt cotton adoption”. Currently, 84,000 hectares of land are covered in cotton plantations. “Therefore, in order to replace the illegal seed, which does not come with the whole package, such as a water need and other specifications, we must use the fast track approach to the legal system.”

“Bt cotton is our priority,” he strongly stated.

“We anticipate receiving approval from the committee in the upcoming weeks,” Dejene told Capital.

The government intended for Ethiopia to become the center of Africa’s textile and garment industry and a major engine of economic expansion.

The goal of the fifteen-year National Cotton Development Strategy was to produce 1.1 million metric tons of cotton from cultivation on one million hectares of land.

“In order to increase local capacity, we are thinking about introducing BtGt traits into local varieties,” Dereje stated at the stakeholders and researchers consultative meeting that was conducted a week ago.

The country now produces around 50,000 metric tons of cotton annually, but in the next two years, the textile sector expects its need to reach 200,000 metric tons.

According to the 15-year plan, the nation would export around 50,000 metric tons of cotton, bringing in up to USD 125 million a year.

The post EIAR advances approval of BtGt Cotton for environmental release appeared first on Capital Newspaper.

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