Nigeria recorded a milestone in the domestication of modern biotechnology with the federal government’s signing into law the Biosafety Bill on April 18, 2015. The law allows the country to join the league of countries advanced in the use of this cutting edge technology as another window to boost its agriculture sector and invariably boost economic development by contributing to its national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Speaking to journalists during the presentation of the scorecard of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Abuja, its director-general, Dr. Rufus Ebegba said Nigeria had also recorded tremendous growth and progress in the sector to be given positions of responsibilities on the sub-continent, pointing out that Nigeria had been mandated to lead the West African sub-region on biosafety.
“NBMA has provided for the first time a safe haven for the practice of modern biotechnology, its application and use in Nigeria. Nigeria can now raise its head among nations as a country ready to appropriately key into the use of safe modern technology, a critical factor for economic development,” he said.
Ebegba stated that the agency had been able to develop and review its operational instruments for effective implementation of the NBMA Act 2015 and the ease of doing business within related sectors in the last three years.
He added: “At present the agency has trained officers through short biosafety courses both nationally and internationally and sometimes to master’s level. With the establishment of the agency, our universities and research institutes now have confidence to carry out biotechnology researches expected to increase agricultural productivity as well as contribute to food security in Nigeria.
“This is line with the green alternative agenda of the Federal Government and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. Our food and feed industries are assured of availability and safe raw materials for their industries, our farmers’ earning ability greatly increases as they experience reduction in agricultural losses as a result of pest and diseases, increased productivity as well as reduction in health problems related to use of chemicals.”
In furtherance of the agency’s collaborative drive, he said it initiated and signed MoUs with National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), and National Varietal Release Committee (NVRC), Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), adding the agency was in the process of signing an MoU with Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Veterinary Pest Control Services Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The NBMA boss also noted that the agency had engaged in various sensitization efforts via the media and other programmes in other to educate the public on its activities and mandate and with its modern state of the art GM detection and analysis laboratory, the agency is now able to test, analyse and carry out proper risk assessment on genetically modified organisms before they are approved for release into the market.
The agency, according to him, has also granted permit for commercial release and importation of GM crops for feed and food processing such as Bt cotton to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd, biosafety permit to WACOT Nigeria Ltd and another permit for commercial release of Bt cotton.
Ebegba said Nigeria was benefiting from safe modern biotechnology under a legal framework for economic growth, improved agriculture, job and wealth creation, industrial growth and sustainable environment as operators now have confidence in the sector, adding risks to human health from modern biotechnology practice and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were at their barest minimum.
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