Crop Biotech Update

Ghana Approves Bt Cowpea for Environmental and Market Release

August 3, 2022

On June 30, 2022, Ghana's National Biosafety Authority approved the genetically engineered (GE) Bt cowpea event 709A for import and/or use without conditions, marking the first GE crop to be approved for use in Ghana. The approval is for 10 years and is renewable.

Bt cowpea 709A targets the Maruca pod borer which reduces cowpea yields by 20-80 percent. Field testing for this event began in Ghana in 2016, and now the developer, Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) can conduct field trials in farmers' fields in two distinct multi-locational areas in two cropping seasons. The results from these trials will then be submitted to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture's National Seed Council's National Variety Release and Registration Committee for validation and approval as a new variety to be registered in the national variety catalog. SARI can begin seed distribution into the Ghanaian commercial market when this step is fulfilled.

Cowpeas, also called black-eyed peas, are a staple in over 200 million households in sub-Saharan Africa. A nitrogen-fixing, high-protein bean, it is also used for livestock fodder. Ghana is estimated to produce only about 57,000 metric tons of cowpeas each year, against the demand of 169,000 metric tons. Ghana imports from Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger to make up for the difference.

Bt cowpea was approved in Nigeria in 2019, and Burkina Faso is developing their own Bt cowpea as well.

For more details, read the voluntary report from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service or the decision document posted in the Biosafety Clearing-house.

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