By Tarkaa David, Abuja
Director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Dr Rufus Edegba has said there are no genetically modified fruits and beans in the Nigerian markets contrary to claims.
Edegba stated this at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja during an update on the state of biosafety in Nigeria.
He said the federal government through NBMA is poised to protect the health of Nigerians and the environment by providing a case-by-case analysis of GMO and risk assessments.
He said a lot of misinformation had been going round to misinform Nigerians and backlash the agency for doing its job and fulfilling its mandate of managing biosafety matters in Nigeria.
“I want to restate here that the fruits and beans available in the Nigerian market at present are not genetically modified as insinuated rather they are either hybrids or improved.
“The federal government through NBMA is always poised to protect the health of its citizens.
and the environment by providing a case-by-case analysis of GMO and risk assessments,” Edegba said.
He added, “I have said it before and will say it again, NBMA is very thorough in its dealings and before any approval is granted, the National Biosafety Committee and the National Biosafety Technical Committee meet to analyse, deliberate on the product which most times spans for two days and decisions are taken after careful and thorough analysis of the application.
“The NBMA does not act on its own as these committees comprise of experts drawn from sister agencies, line ministries, scientists, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), farmers and many other stakeholders who after their review make their recommendations to the NBMA for further action,” he said.
Edegba said since the inception of the National Biosafety Management Agency (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 Nigerians and just like our activities that have not gone unnoticed in Africa, they have not gone unnoticed worldwide,” he said
Edegba said the agency always ensures that only safe and approved genetically modified seeds and grains for food and feed processing are allowed into the Nigerian market hence the constant upgrading of its GM detection and analysis laboratory and constant inspection of GMO facilities, confined field trial sites and multi-locational trial sites. The move, he said is for proper surveillance, tracking and monitoring of GMOs in Nigeria.
He said the agency had developed gene editing guidelines which had been validated by stakeholders.
“The guidelines will ensure the proper regulation of gene edited products. However, some plants edit their genomes themselves independent of human efforts that is naturally hence cannot be expected to be regulated.
“But any man-made or scientifically inserted gene into an organism or plant will be regulated. While gene editing and modern biotechnology are both genetic engineering tools, it will be out of ignorance to say all gene edited products are GMOs,” Edegba said.
He therefore assured Nigerians that the federal government through the agency is doing everything possible to ensure that “we are all safe.”