African GM cowpea potentially huge boost for local farmers

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Scientists claim GM cowpea could generate US$1 billion
Busani Bafana, SciDEv net
1 October 2010

The cowpea is emerging as an important food crop

[SALY, SENEGAL] A pest-resistant version of the black-eyed pea, a subspecies of the cowpea, is on track for commercial introduction, promising higher yields and claimed savings of up to US$1 billion on a crop that has found new popularity among African smallholders.

The cowpea, actually a bean, is rich in protein and is an important crop for both tackling malnutrition and adapting to climate change as it tolerates hot, dry conditions.

But infestation by the Maruca vitrata pod borer has cut the value of crops by up to US$300 million for smallholders in Africa, who produce nearly 5.2 million tonnes of the bean. The continent currently accounts for about 70 per cent of global production.

Now, scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, in collaboration with other institutes including the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, Kenya, have engineered an insect-resistant Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cowpea that they say could be on shelves in six years. more at link

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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.