The Director General of National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba has said that the environmental release permits the agency granted the Bt Cotton and Bt Cowpea was based on scientific facts for the benefit of Nigerians.
Dr Ebegba also told Nigerians that any GM crop the Agency has certified safe is indeed safe, hence they trust in the decisions of the Federal Government.
Speaking recently during a media parley in Abuja, Dr Ebegba said President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed a bill to amend the NBMA Act 2015 in order to include regulations for emerging biotechnologies.
“On the 29th of July, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law a bill to amend the NBMA Act 2015 to include the regulation of new and emerging areas of biotechnology which are gene drive, gene editing, synthetic biology and biosecurity in Nigeria with a view to preventing any adverse effect to human health and environment.
“This new inclusion is apt and highly commendable because, due to emergence of new biotechnologies, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind in checking if these technologies are safe for humans and the environment and it is the mandate of the Agency to ensure that modern biotechnology and its products are safe.
“The new inclusion has led to the creation of a new department called biosecurity department and a special unit called biosafety intelligence unit. The emergence of this new department a.d unit was borne out of the need to properly ensure that the mandate of the NBMA is carried out and to ensure that Nigerians benefit maximally.
“The NBMA has begun drafting of regulations and guidelines for regulation of these new areas especially genome editing which is a new aspect of modern biotechnology.
“The essence of these guidelines is for proper regulation of these areas and to ensure that only safe products are deployed for humans and environment”, he said.
Furthermore, he said the Agency has made a major stride both in the continent and international on its approval for environmental release of some crops which has been hailed internationally.
“The Agency has been in close relations with its international affiliates ensuring that issues of biosafety in Nigeria is never left at the back seat.
“These strides have not gone unnoticed as Nigeria emerged the chair of the African Union Biosafety regulators forum, giving credence to our role on biosafety issues not just in Nigeria but in the African continent.
“Since the inception of the NBMA in 2015, the obvious impact of the Nigerian Biosafety Authority has been felt all over the globe.
“From the decision to approve Bt Cotton for environmental release in 2016 to the decision to approve PBR Cowpea for environmental release in 2019, the NBMA has made decisions based on scientific facts for the benefit of Nigerian people and just like our activities that have not gone unnoticed in Africa, it has not gone unnoticed worldwide.
“The recent biosafety permit granted to the Institute of Agricultural Research on Cowpea has equally be approved by the National Varietal Release Committee. This is a Committee that approves all new varieties”, Ebegba said.
He, however, said the Agency was not relenting in its duty to ensure that only certified GM seeds or grains were released, hence it is constantly upgrading its facilities nationwide to be able to discharge its duties effectively.
“The NBMA has not be resting on its oars in ensuring that only approved Genetically Modified seeds and grains for food and feed processing is allowed into the Nigerian market hence the constant upgrading of our GM detection and analysis Laboratory and our constant inspection of GMO facilities, confined field trial sites and multi-locational trial sites. This is for proper surveillance, tracking and monitoring of GMOs in Nigeria.
“I want to use this medium to assure Nigerians that the Federal Government through the Agency is doing everything possible to ensure that we are all safe. Let me say this categorically that whatever the Agency says is safe is indeed safe.
“Nigerians should learn to trust the Federal Government and allow the Agency do what will be in e their best interest. Nigerians need not be afraid as their health and wellbeing are paramount in the mind of the Agency as the relate to biosafety”.
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