1. What is Agricultural Biotechnology?
    Agricultural Biotechnology is the application of scientific tools and techniques, including genetic engineering, to modify living organisms in order to address problems in all areas of agricultural production and processing. Agricultural Biotechnology can be used to improve pest and insect resistance, disease control, abiotic stress like salt stress and drought tolerance, and enhance nutritional content of crops.
  2. What is Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and why is it the focus of genetic modification?
    The characteristics of all living organisms are determined by their genetic makeup and its interaction with the environment. The genetic makeup of an organism is its genome, which in all plants and animals is made of DNA. It is the focus for modification because the genome contains genes, regions of DNA that usually carry the instructions for making proteins. It is these proteins that give the plant its characteristics. For example, the colour of flowers is determined by genes that carry the instructions for making proteins involved in producing the pigments responsible for the colours.
  3. What is Genetic Modification (GM) of crops?
    GM is a technology that involves inserting DNA into the genome of an organism. To produce a GM plant, new DNA is transferred into plant cells. Usually, the cells are then grown in tissue culture where they develop into plants. The seeds produced by these plants will inherit the new DNA.
    Genetic modification of plants involves adding a specific strand of DNA into the plant’s genome, giving it new or different characteristics. This could include changing the way the plant grows, or making it resistant to a particular disease. The new DNA becomes part of the GM plant’s genome.
  4. Which crops have been genetically modified worldwide?
    Globally the following major GM crops are genetically modified; soybean, cotton, maize, rice, cowpea and canola. Others are alfalfa, apple, tobacco, creeping bent grass, eggplant, cassava, melon, sugarcane, plum, papaya, plum, flax, safflower potato, squash, rose, sweet pepper, tomato, sugar beet and wheat.
  5. What are the common traits of GM food crops?
    The most common traits of GM crops are herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Others include drought tolerance, salt tolerance, and enhanced nutrient content (vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, protein) as well as reducing anti-nutrients.
  6. How does biosafety reflect in Agricultural biotechnology?
    Biosafety is the set of safety mechanisms put in place when one is using a biological system. Agricultural biotechnology comes out with products for use by the public. Before these products are put on the market, they are by law made to passport through biosafety scrutiny.
  7. Is there a Regulatory structure in Ghana to regulate GM related activities?
    In Ghana, the Biosafety Act, 2011 (Act 831), regulates biotechnology and provides for related matters. Per the Act, the commencement of all activities relating to GMOs will require prior approval by the national competent Authority – the National Biosafety Authority (NBA). The NBA has responsibility for handling requests for approval for the following:
  • Application for contained or confined use
  • Application for release of GM product into the environment
  • Application to import or place on the market
  • Application to export
  • Application for genetically modified organisms in transit

The NBA works together with seven regulatory agencies that have expertise relevant to the regulation of some aspects of biotechnology and related matters. These agencies include Food and Drugs Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate, Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Veterinary Services Directorate, Ghana Standards Authority and the Municipal/District Assemblies


The Biosafety Act has established a Technical Advisory Committee with the prime responsibility of evaluating applications received and giving recommendations to the NBA governing board to take final decision on the applications.


 8. What is the Role of FDA in the production and commercialization of foods derived from GM crops in Ghana?


The FDA is the regulatory institution with the primary responsibility of assuring safety of food in Ghana. As a result, within the National Biosafety Framework, the FDA is assigned specific roles relating to its core expertise in food safety. The FDA is represented on the Technical Advisory Committee, as per the Biosafety Act, 2011 (Act 831). The FDA’s inspections at the ports of entry, warehouses and market surveillance facilitates the detection of products derived from GM crops used for food, feed and processing that have not been subjected to the regulatory approval process.

  1. Do regulators do their own independent testing of GM foods?


Literature reviews are a standard scientific method of evaluation used by regulators around the world, to evaluate the safety of a variety of products including food, drugs and agricultural and veterinary chemicals. The methods and approach used are not only consistent with international guidelines developed according to scientific advice provided by the WHO, FAO, and OECD, but also reflect the methodology that has been used to regulate food and medicines in contemporary times.


Companies involved in the development of GM foods spend millions of dollars rigorously testing their products according to these requirements, which include detailed documentation of testing. Thorough evaluation of the data quality and protocols used is carried out to ensure the validity of results. When the regulator determines that the data submitted is insufficient, additional information and testing may be required. The regulator may also supplement the information provided by the Applicant with any published data locally or internationally that is relevant to the product in question.



10.0 How is the Safety of GMOs Evaluated?


GM crops that are used as food sources are rigorously assessed for its safety for use as food or feed. It is only following successful attainment of internationally accepted assessment end points for toxicity, allergenicity and nutrition, that a GM crop is approved for import, placement on the market and export. Safety assessment is considered on a case by case basis.


This assessment is undertaken in accordance with internationally established scientific principles and guidelines developed through the work of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.


Considering the impracticability of achieving absolute safety, the safety assessment process aims to establish equivalence of GM food to its conventional counterpart whose benefits and risks are well known and acceptable.


Safety assessment considers the following:

  • The source of the genes and its safety.
  • The method of transformation and its potential impact.
  • Intended and unintended effects of the genetic modification and how it impacts the health and safety of the populace.
  • Comparison with conventional foods with an acceptable history of safe use for similarities as well as differences and any potential impact on safety and health of consumers.


10.1. Are GM foods less nutritious than conventional foods?


Nutritional assessments for GM foods evaluated by several National Competent Authorities globally have shown that these foods are as nutritious as their conventional counterparts. When biological significant differences that particular GM crop will not be approved.


When the aim of the modification is to transfer some particular nutritional trait, then the result crop will of course, be more nutritious than the conventional counterpart.


10.2. Affirmation of safety of GM foods by international bodies?


Food and Agriculture Organization: “The use of these techniques (modern biotechnology) does not result in food which is inherently less safe than that produced by conventional ones”


World Health Organization: “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved”


European Commission: “Extensive research on GMOs, co-funded by the European Commission over the last two decades, has significantly contributed to being able to identify and characterize possible risks associated with foods/feed derived from GMOs. These activities provide at least equal assurance of the safety of these foods compared to conventional counterparts, provided these GM products have been approved by the EU and the national food safety evaluation procedures.”


10.3. What is considered to be safe food?

The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), define food to be safe if there is reasonable certainty that no harm will result from consumption under the anticipated conditions of use (CAC/GL45-2003). The FAO suggests that safety assessments should provide assurance, in the light of the best available scientific knowledge, that the food does not cause harm when prepared, used and/or eaten according to its intended use. The absolute safety of a food or an ingredient can never be guaranteed. However, with appropriate precautions during production, manufacture into products, and distribution, risk can be kept to an absolute minimum that is generally acceptable to consumers.

10.4. Are foods derived from GM crops likely to be toxic or cause allergic reactions?


GM crops that are used as food sources are assessed for toxicity and allergenicity in accordance with internationally accepted risk assessment end points, thus products have passed through biosafety processes and approved are not toxic or allergenic.


10.5. Are there long-term health effects of foods derived from GM crops?

There are currently no documented long term health effects resulting from the consumption of GM foods. There are however, several publications that have associated certain adverse health effects to consumption of foods derived from GM crops. The most publicized being the Seralini publication. His findings were reviewed by several national competent authorities in France, Belgium, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada among others. In all instances they noted the results were inconclusive and bias, which caused the report to be retracted, thus the claim of long term use causing cancer is not valid.


11.Who is paying for GM crop development and who owns the technology?

The discoveries that enabled GM technology were largely made by public sector scientists. They went on to develop the technology further, as did scientists in the commercial sector.  The public and private sectors, along with charities, own GM methods and plants and continue to invest in GM research and crop development. They take out patents on discoveries and techniques. Most current GM methods and GM crop varieties are owned by companies.

GM crop research is also funded by national research agencies and by charities, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where patents are held for the public good.  Public, private and charity sectors can work closely together

12.Why is intellectual property required in GM?

 Owners of intellectual property, such as patents and registered varieties, can insist on payment of a license or royalty fee by other users of their proprietary technology.  These patents also ensure that the science and technology behind an invention are available for anybody to read. This framework also applies to drug development, and to other discovery- or invention-dependent products, including increasingly to non-GM crops. Conventional non-GM crops may also have license agreements and restrictions on saving seed.

Patents give rights to the companies that develop new crops. Farmers who buy seed protected by some types of patents must sign an agreement not to sell or save seed from these crops – so they are obliged to buy fresh seeds every year from such companies.

Patent holders may choose to release their GM varieties without charge for public benefit. The Golden rice – the GM rice being developed as a source of vitamin A, will be available free of charge in regions of the developing world where people are suffering from vitamin A deficiency.

Some of the early GM patents have expired or will soon expire. This may mean farmers will be able to save some GM seeds for re-planting for free. Other companies can also make cheaper versions of the crops at no cost. The outcome is uncertain because of standard varietal protection on some of the seed and the potential need for new regulatory approvals if a GM trait is used in a conventional breeding programme.

By and large, the GM technology has contributed to food security. This has been made possible because of biosafety systems put in place. Intellectual Property Rights that have expired, paving way for free use of the technology by farmers have also made accessibility to the technology easy for those who need. With this developments the poor and vulnerable can get access to nutritionally enhanced food.

(Culled and compiled from the WHO, The Royal Society website:  and the Codex Alimentarius Commission website:






Why do we need Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea?

Farmers and scientists in Africa identified Legume Pod Borer (Maruca vitrata) as one of the most damaging insect pests limiting cowpea production. The damage caused by the pod borer to cowpea plants reduces the size and quality of the cowpea harvest. It can reduce grain yield by up to 80%. Farmers typically spray pesticides up to 6 – 12 times within a planting season to control this insect pest. Farmers currently rely on the use of chemical pesticides to control this and other pests, but this is often not effective because the chemicals do not reach the pest larvae inside the plant tissues. The chemicals are also expensive, their availability to farmers is limited, and due to inadequate training in their use, often lead to unintended human health and safety impacts. A cowpea product that can protect itself from Legume Podborer damage will make it easier and cheaper for farmers to produce cowpeas in areas where this pest is a problem.

Which genes have been incorporated into the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea?

The Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea contains the cry1Ab (Bt) and nptII genes. The Bt gene was derived from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki. The Bt protein produced in modified cowpea plants has been shown to be identical to the naturally occurring protein, and equivalent to the protein used as a biopesticide by the organic food industry.

The nptII gene produces the enzyme neomycin phosphotransferase II, which is used as a plant selectable marker for researchers to identify plants into which the Bt gene has been incorporated. The nptII gene was derived from the bacterium, Escherichia coli.

What is Maruca pod borer?

The Maruca pod borer is an insect pest that attacks cowpea plants and many legume crops in Africa and other countries in the World. The Maruca moths lay eggs on cowpea plants and the emerging caterpillars feed on the plants and burrows into the pods. This damage affects the quantity of the leaves, flowers and the quantity and quality of grains leading to severe yield loss. Pesticides to control Maruca are expensive and are not always available. This results in some farmers using unapproved chemicals to protect cowpea crops, and other farmers having to tolerate the damage because they do not have any effective way to control Maruca.

What is Bt?

Bt is an abbreviation for Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil bacterium that is common around the world. These bacteria produce specialised proteins, called Bt proteins, that selectively kill certain types of insects without affecting other living organisms. As such, Bt have been and are still used as biological control agents for certain insect pests in farming, especially for the organic food industry. Modern biotechnology has produced Bt crops, which are modified to produce specific Bt proteins in the plant cells to protect against specific pests. These crops do not need conventional pesticide sprays to destroy the pests that are controlled by the specific Bt protein. Existing, approved Bt crops have significantly improved the cost effectiveness and sustainability of crop production in North and South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Where does the Bt gene come from?

The Bt gene comes from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. The Bt gene used in Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas (cry1Ab) is the same gene used in several Bt maize events that have been approved for use in many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Brazil, the E.U., Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, the U.K., the U.S. and Uruguay. The gene was identified and developed by Monsanto and is used successfully in several commercial crops.

What is NptII and where does it come from?

The nptII gene was derived from the bacterium, Escherichia coli, strain K12. This gene produces the protein NptII, which is an enzyme called neomycin phosphotransferase II. The presence of this protein is used as a selectable marker for researchers in a laboratory to identify plants into which the Bt gene has been incorporated.

How does Bt insect protection work in cowpea?

The gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt for short gives PBR Cowpea the ability to defend itself against Maruca. The Bt gene produces a protein that stops the functioning of the digestive system of the Legume Podborer larva which eventually dies. This protein does not affect non target organisms and as such, safe to humans, livestock, wildlife, and beneficial insects. The Bt bacterium is sold under different names and has been used in organic farming for over 50 years to control insect pests.

Who is developing the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea seed?

PBR Cowpeas are being developed by an international public-private partnership, managed, and coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). The varieties to be modified with the Bt gene have been identified as farmer preferred varieties and come from the national research centres in participating countries. The Bt and nptII genes were donated to AATF by a private company (Bayer) on a humanitarian basis under a royalty free license. These genes were transferred into cowpeas by scientists at an Australian public research centre. The field testing and breeding with PBR Cowpeas is carried out at African agricultural research centres in participating countries. In Ghana, CSIR – Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR_SARI) is conducting field testing and breeding of PBR cowpea farmer preferred varieties.

Has PBR cowpea been planted anywhere else?

Bt crops such as Bt maize have been in the market for over 20 years, with more than 25 countries growing it today on 106 million hectares. However, PBR cowpea is currently under commercial cultivation in Nigeria. The National Biosafety Management Agency of Nigeria gave approval for commercial release in Nigeria early 2019 and a PBR cowpea variety, SAMPEA 20-T was registered and released to cowpea farmers in December 2019. Trials have been concluded in Ghana and Burkina Faso and approval for commercial release is being anticipated. Similar Bt products are however approved and in use in various regions of the world. In 2016, a record 185. 1 million hectares from 2015 and more than 100-fold gain since 1.7 million hectares were planted in 1996. In South Africa, an estimated total of 2.73 million hectares of Bt maize was planted in 2014.


How and when will farmers get access to PBR cowpea seed?

The seed will be produced and distributed to farmers using existing and new seed distribution channels. These channels will help ensure that good quality Podborer Resistant cowpea seed is available when farmers need it. PBR cowpea will be provided to seed companies with capacity to produce and distribute certified seeds. When sold through official seed distributors, the seed will be certified. The developer (CSIR-SARI) will apply for variety registration and release as per the National Varietal Release and Registration rules and regulations after carrying out participatory on-farm demonstration trials with farmers.

Will PBR cowpea be planted the same way as traditional cowpeas, and do they need more inputs?

PBR Cowpea will be planted in the same way as traditional cowpeas. As with any other crop, farmers will be encouraged to follow the best agricultural management practices to maintain high yields by controlling weeds and adding inputs such as fertilizer and water. Planting guidelines to ensure insect resistance management will be provided.

Is Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea adaptable to farmer’s cropping systems?

The Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea lines will be chosen for their compatibility with local cropping systems. This improved crop will need to be effective in the local growing areas and under local growing conditions.

Can Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas be used in intercropping systems?

Yes, the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas can be used exactly as traditional crops are used. Where traditional cowpeas are used for intercropping, the Maruca resistant varieties can also be used.

Will the Maruca-resistant gene control all insect pests of cowpea?

The protection in PBR cowpeas is effective against Legume Podborer (Maruca vitrata) and some other caterpillar pests of cowpea. It will not be effective against all cowpea pests. However, planting guidelines that include recommendations on integrated pest management (IPM) will be provided to farmers.

Will there still be need to use pesticides on PBR cowpea?

If Maruca is the only pest that damages your cowpea crop, then no pesticide will be needed when growing PBR cowpea. However, if other pests are a problem which is most likely, some pesticide use will be necessary to protect the crop from these other pests, but the number of sprays will be fewer than usual. Farmers are encouraged to speak to their extension agents for best advice on type of pesticide to apply.

Why would I need Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea if I don’t use pesticides on my crops?

The answer will depend on why you don’t use pesticides. If you don’t use pesticides because your crop is not damaged by Maruca, then you will not need to use Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas. However, if your crop is damaged by Maruca, but you don’t use pesticides because they are not available, or are too expensive, or are too dangerous to apply, then you will benefit by planting Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas.

Does PBR cowpea yield better than conventional varieties?

The insect resistance trait will be introduced into conventional varieties that have good yield under local growing conditions. The addition of the insect resistance trait will protect cowpea varieties from yield loss due to Maruca infestation. Therefore, under high Maruca infestations the Maruca-resistant cowpea will yield better than a conventional variety which lacks the protection against the pest. In general, insect resistance traits protect the plant from yield loss to plant-feeding insects like the pod borer, Maruca. However, where pod borer is not a problem for cowpea production, PBR cowpea will not provide significant yield advantage.

Will the Bt gene protect stored seed?

The main storage pests of cowpea seeds and grains are bruchids which are not controlled by the Bt protein. However, an integrated approach will be used to ensure protection of the improved cowpeas both in the field and during storage.

Will the pest develop resistance to the Maruca-resistant seed?

As with all pest control measures, there is a possibility that the Maruca pest will develop resistance to the control measure. The developers will establish an insect resistance management strategy to help ensure that farmers have access to the insect resistance benefit for as long as possible. As in other countries, a key component of that strategy will involve the farmer. Farmers and Extension officers will be trained in insect resistance management.

Is the gene stable in the plants?

Gene stability has been tested over several generations during the field trials. The genes must be stable before a safety approval can be obtained and before the seed can be used by farmers.


Is PBR cowpea safe for people to eat?

PBR cowpea is safe for both human and animal consumption. In Nigeria where it has been commercially released, PBR Cowpea has undergone extensive health and safety assessments as per the Nigerian and international scientific standards. The cowpea gets its insect protection ability from a common soil-dwelling bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt in short. Bt products have been safely deployed and used for over 20 years in various parts of the world and have a history of safe cultivation and consumption.

Will the antibiotic marker gene affect human health?

The NptII antibiotic resistance protein was introduced into Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea during the laboratory phase of the crop’s development.  This marker has been the subject of extensive safety reviews by national and international regulatory bodies, including the U.S. and EU and the unanimous conclusion from these assessments is that the presence of NptII poses no safety concerns to humans, animals, or the environment.

Will Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas cause allergic reactions?

The insect resistance trait added to Pod Borer- Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas is being used in insect resistant maize varieties in 17 countries and has been consumed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide since its introduction in 1996. There are no reports of any allergic reactions from this consumption. Approval for this insect resistance trait was given by regulatory authorities in each country following evaluation by regulatory and food safety experts. This safety evaluation included an assessment of the potential of the new trait to cause allergic reactions. The unequivocal conclusion from these evaluations is that the insect resistance trait introduced into Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas has none of the properties of any known allergen and is not anticipated to cause any harm when consumed by humans and animals.

Is PBR cowpea safe for the environment?

The Bt protein in PBR cowpea has been evaluated from an environmental safety perspective, including its potential to cause harm to pollinators such as honeybees. The Bt is very specific to certain insects and causes no damage towards other classes of insects or animals, including pollinators. The protein has a narrow spectrum of toxicity towards lepidopteran insect pests, such as Maruca.

What effect will Bt have on pollinators?

The Bt protein expressed in Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas has been evaluated from an environmental safety perspective, including its potential to cause harm to pollinators such as honeybees. The insect resistant trait demonstrates no toxicity towards other classes of insects or other animals, including pollinators. The protein has a narrow spectrum of toxicity towards lepidopteran insect pests, such as Maruca.

Will PBR cowpea cross pollinate with wild cowpeas?

Cowpea is a self-pollinating crop due to the nature of its flower structure which means minimal chances of crossing with wild cowpeas. However, through the movement of insects or other unknown agents, cross pollination may take place when plants are very close to each other. In that case pollen movement into wild cowpea plants is anticipated to occur at a low level. This is a natural occurrence with all flowering plants. The PBR cowpea’s rigorous safety assessment carried out for both consumption and the environment ensure that the result of pollen movement poses no safety concerns.

Who will conduct the safety assessment on Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas?

The safety information will be collected during the laboratory studies and field trials. These studies have been conducted by the technology developers, including national program cowpea breeders and scientists. This information has been submitted to regulators for their review and risk assessment, which is conducted by experts on behalf of the regulatory agencies in individual countries. Typically, the food and feed safety assessments are conducted by scientists affiliated with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, while the environmental assessment is conducted by scientists affiliated with the Ministry of Environment and/or the Ministry of Agriculture.


Will growing Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas affect trade with the EU?

Other African countries that grow genetically modified crops have not had their trade with the EU affected. It is possible to supply the types of foods wanted by trading partners through segregation of harvests. In addition, efforts are under way to harmonize EU regulation of GM crops with other agricultural countries.

Will Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea affect trade among West African countries?

When Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea seed is available for farmers, West African countries will each decide whether this crop will be approved for planting, import and consumption. Countries that approve the growing of Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas will need to ensure that the seed and harvests are not taken to countries where the crop is not approved for growing or consumption.

Some countries might approve the crop for consumption, but not for planting. These countries will allow the importation of Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea harvests for food and feed but will not allow farmers to plant the genetically modified seed. ECOWAS member countries are currently developing a harmonized approach to safety assessments for genetically modified seed. Regional agreements can facilitate trade and access to Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea seed for farmers.

What impact will PBR cowpea have on country exports?

Maruca-resistant cowpea production will not affect the export of other crops, but importing countries may require cowpea exporters to indicate whether or not the exported crop is genetically modified. Exporters will need to notify receiving countries when exported cowpeas are genetically modified. These countries may require a safety assessment before the cowpeas are imported.

Will Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas benefit the seed business?

If there is a demand for Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea seed, then this will have a positive impact on the seed businesses that will produce and distribute quality seed.

Will farmers have access to potential niche markets?

Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea production will not affect niche markets established by other cowpea growers or growers of other crops. Farmers supplying niche markets ensure that their harvests meet the requirements of these markets through planting of certified seed and careful segregation of harvests. It is too early to say whether Pod Borer- Resistant (PBR) Cowpea will provide a niche market.


Will PBR cowpea cook in the same way as conventional cowpeas?

Yes, PBR cowpea is expected to cook in the same way and taste the same as conventional cowpeas. The only change in Maruca-resistant cowpea is the addition of two proteins neither of which interferes with cooking nor changes the way the cowpeas must be cooked. Before the cowpeas are sold, however, culinary testing will be used to ensure that the taste and cooking qualities are unchanged and acceptable.

Will Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea taste the same as traditional cowpea?

The Maruca resistance that is being added to the traditional cowpea varieties is not expected to affect taste, because the addition of Bt genes has not affected taste in other insect resistant crops. However, taste is one of the aspects that will be assessed before the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas are released to farmers.

Will Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas replace traditional varieties?

Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas are being developed from traditional varieties so that communities will see them as improved traditional varieties rather than new varieties. The varieties will be improved by adding only the Maruca resistant trait, and so they will retain all the other qualities of the traditional varieties.

What are the benefits of PBR cowpea?

PBR cowpea will provide better seed choices to farmers and help them produce more reliable harvests and better grain quality. The Cowpea will reduce pesticide use from an average of 6-12 applications during a growing season to two, which will reduce production costs for farmers and benefit both human and environmental health. Farmers who have no access to pesticides will be able to protect their grain yield through use of improved PBR Cowpea seed alone. With reduced grain yield losses, cowpea production will increase by at least 20 percent. Higher and better-quality production will improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and contribute to increased trade. Farmers will be able to harvest enough to feed their families, have a surplus which they can sell to increase their incomes and help strengthen local communities.

Why has the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea been started in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Ghana, and not in other countries?

The field testing of Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea was started in those countries that have working biosafety regulatory systems. The regulators in these countries reviewed the planned trials to ensure that they can be carried out safely. When satisfied with the safety of the proposed testing, the regulators gave permission for the developers to run the field trials. Countries without an operating biosafety system cannot provide a safety approval for field testing. As more countries implement biosafety regulations, it will be possible to test Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea in more places.

Will Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea make Africa dependent on foreigners for seed and food?

The Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas will not make Africa dependent on foreigners for seed or food. The cowpeas are being developed by an international public-private sector consortium under a royalty free license. AATF manages the project and collaborates with the Network for the Genetic Improvement of Cowpea for Africa (NGICA), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Australia, the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Zaria, Nigeria, the CSIR-Savanna Agricultural Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR- SARI) Tamale, Ghana, the Agricultural Research Institute of Burkina Faso (INERA), the Kirkhouse Trust, Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and Bayer to develop, test and deploy the Maruca resistant and farmer- preferred cowpea varieties.

Who will benefit from Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea at local, national, and international level?

The Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea was developed to benefit African farmers who rely on cowpeas for food and feed. At the local level these farmers and their families are the first beneficiaries. The development and testing of the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas has also benefited national research centres by building capacity in crop evaluation and selection. When farmers start to benefit from the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas, it is expected that this will increase national food security and have a positive effect on wealth creation and economic stability. Thus, the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas are expected to impact positively at many levels both locally and nationally. The international benefits will accrue when there is increased food security and sustainability of food production in African countries.

Will consumers accept genetically modified cowpea?

Consumer acceptance will depend on the performance of the improved cowpea varieties and the quality of information consumers receive about the Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea and genetic modification. Where genetically modified crops perform well and consumers have information about the safety of the new crops, the acceptance levels are high. Where consumers have little experience with growing and eating genetically modified crops and hear a lot of misinformation about these crops, acceptance levels are generally low. CSIR-SARI will include consumers and farmers in the evaluation of the new cowpeas so that there is a high level of accurate information about Pod Borer- Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas in the communities where the seed will be grown and used.

How much will PBR cowpea cost?

The PBR Cowpea will be sold at the regular price of Cowpea seed depending on the market dynamics of demand and supply. The Cowpea will be royalty- free to seed companies who will then distribute to farmers based on existing seed distribution systems.

Will farmers be able to save PBR cowpea seeds for replanting?

Yes, farmers will be able to save seed for replanting if they wish. However, just as with traditional seed, it is good farm management practice to plant the best available seed each year to help ensure consistently good harvests. This will protect the crop from failures caused by loss in seed quality and the presence of viruses which increase each time seed is saved and replanted.

How will Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpea impact on GDP?

Pod Borer-Resistant (PBR) Cowpeas will impact on the GDP in the same way that a good cowpea harvest affects the economy of a country. An increased output (surplus) is expected to impact positively on the GDP, as most African countries have agriculture-based economies. Cowpea is a generator of foreign exchange in West Africa, where there are large markets for both grain and fodder. Moreover, in West and Central Africa cowpea grain and fodder is of vital importance to the livelihood of millions of people.