By Abdallah el-Kurebe
The Director General of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba has declared that Nigeria’s Biosafety regulation of modern biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) was crucial for safety assurance and confidence building for Nigerians.
He stated this at the 2nd National Biosafety Conference (NBC), which held in Abuja on November 10th.
According to him, “the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), an Agency under the Federal Ministry of Environment, came into being on the 18th April, 2015 with the aim to provide a regulatory framework, institutional and administrative mechanisms for safety measures in the application of modern biotechnology in Nigeria, with the view to preventing any adverse effect on human health, animals, plants and environment.”
Jointly organised by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), with a theme: “Biosafety, Food Security and Economic Development in Nigeria,” the conference was aimed to “emphasise the importance of effective biosafety regulation to food security and socio-economic development in the application of modern biotechnology in Nigeria.”
It was also aimed to enable national and international scientists, government institutions and stakeholders to knit ideas with a view to fostering holistic biosafety in Nigeria.
With various sub- themes that discussed specific areas of biosafety in modern biotechnology regulation and how they relate to pertinent economic issues such as health care delivery systems, environmental management and economic sustainability etc, the conference “is designed to promote collaborations among government agencies/organizations and all other stakeholders and interest groups on matters relating to biosafety regulation in Nigeria.”
He further stated that the NBMA Act 2015 seeks to provide derived benefits from safe modern biotechnology under a legal framework for economic growth, improved agriculture, job and wealth creation, industrial growth and sustainable environment, minimise risks to human health, confirm and harness the potentials of modern biotechnology, guard against any socio-economic consequences, give confidence in the practice of modern biotechnology, use and handling of GMOs and GM products, among others.
“Science and technology are some of the drivers of change and Nigeria as a country cannot continue to look backward for obsolete technologies to drive her socioeconomic survival. The opportunities in the adoption of safe technologies are endless and their borders seamless. How strong regulation is required for safety,” Ebegba emphasised.
He assured Nigerian citizens of NBMA’s resolve to regulate modern biotechnology for their benefit. “I want to assure you that the NBMA is poised to effectively regulate modern biotechnology for the benefit of Nigerians and to allay the fears of the members of the public who so wish to consume GMOs.
“Nigerians should be rest assured of the protection of their health and the environment by the NBMA on matters concerning GMOs. The Agency’s Enforcement officers are currently surveying for illegal GMOs and the practice of modern biotechnology without permit in Nigeria,” he assured.
He advised the public against relying on non science information in taking decisions about the technology. “Nigerians should therefore trust the Agency’s decisions and avoid unscientific information and acts capable of causing public distrust and panic. In the event of any doubt on matters concerning biosafety, the NBMA is available for the clarification.”
It was expected that the outcomes of the conference would assist in strengthening Nigeria’s national biosafety system.