Prof. Lucy Jumeyi Ogbadu, Director-General/CEO, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Abuja

Nigeria has finally joined the league of Biotechnology countries

President Goodluck Jonathan has signed the National Biosafety Agency Bill, which is a milestone in the domestication of modern biotechnology in Nigeria a giant stride that will allow the country to join the league of countries advanced in the use of this cutting edge technology as another window to boost economic development in Nigeria. It will create more employment, boost food production that will put a smile on the faces of farmers and alleviate hunger if given good attention by government.

The National Biosafety Act is crucial in the management of Modern Biotechnology in the country. Modern Biotechnology has been identified as an important tool that can help countries to achieve food sufficiency/food security, industrial growth, health improvement and environmental sustainability while the Biosafety Act will give the legal framework to check the activities of modern biotechnology locally as well as imported GM crops into the country as well as providing avenue to engage Nigerian scientist s/experts from different fields to identify and pursue solutions to our local challenges”.

The Biosafety Law also recognizes the complex issues to be addressed by Central Authorities in the judicious application of Modern Biotechnology; it bases the deliberate release of GMO on Advance Informed Agreement (AIA)”.

Biosafety Law:

I. Defines offenses and Penalty for violation of the act

II. Contains powers to authorize release of GMOs and practice of modern biotechnology activities.

III. Confers the power to carry out risk assessment/management before the release, handling and use of GMOs,

IV. Covers all genetically modified organisms/Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) and products thereof including food/feed and processing.

V. Covers socio-economic consideration in risk assessment

The Benefits of Modern Biotechnology include among others, the following:

a. Capacity for enhanced food security

b. Environmental protection and conservation through production of stress tolerant planting materials for re-vegetation, re-afforestation, soil binding for erosion control as well as genetically enhanced organisms for bioremediation of oil polluted sites

c. Improvement in plants and animals yields as well as nutritional values

d. Production of new breeds/varieties of animals and plants.

e. Reduction in the use of pesticides

f. Reduction in farming land area with higher yields, facilitates Job and wealth creation, leads to better health facilities,

g. Promotion of bioorganic fertilizer development and industrial growth through feedstock development.

h. Promotion and development of biopharmaceuticals production, Stem Cell technology, biometrics, etc in Nigeria

i. Biodiversity conservation

Purpose of the Law

The Biosafety Law is for an act to provide for the management of Biosafety and other related matters and it seeks to:

a) Harness the potentials modern biotechnology has to offer under a legal regulatory regime.

b) Ensure environmental, human and socio-economic safety while harnessing the benefits associated with the practice of modern biotechnology and its outputs,

c) Exercise the sovereign right over all the nation’s natural resources and authority to regulate access to such resources.

d) Allay the fear of the populace on the socio-economic consequences of modern biotechnology, especially among the small scale farming systems that are prevalent in Nigeria.

e) Reaffirm Nigeria’s commitment to the principles of the World Trade Organization and to reaffirm Nigeria’s commitment to the goals and objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which Nigeria has signed and ratified.

f) Safe use of modern biotechnology and provide holistic approach to the regulation of modified organisms in Nigeria.

g) Safeguard human health and the environment from any potential; adverse effect of genetically modified organism including food safety.

h) Provide measures for the assessment of genetically modified organism and management of risk in order to ensure safety in the use of genetically modified organisms to human health and the environment.

i) Ensure that the use of the genetically modified organism does not have undesired impact on socio – economic and cultural interest either at the community or National level.

j) Ensure the Law makes provision for the establishment of a competent agency which would work in line with existing institutional bodies to prevent unsafe use of genetically modified organisms as well as develop risk managements plan and strategy for protecting human health, biology diversity, and the environment from potentials risks associated with genetically modified organisms.

k) Ensure that Nigeria will have the opportunity to harness the potentials modern technology has to offer in the field of improved food production, medicine/health, Industrial growth and environmental sustainability, generation of Employment and wealth creation through the Modern Biotechnology industry.

l) Bring about responsible Research and Development in Modern Biotechnology,

m) Ensure that Nigeria will be able to guarantee the purity of its agricultural products for the international market, there by gaining international partners and also foreign earning.

n) Ensure that Nigeria will not serve as a dumping ground for unregulated Genetically Modified Organisms which may have impact on the environment and human health