GM: Experts Review Biosafety Guidelines For Risk Assessment, Mgt

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NBMA Review
The director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr. Rufus Ebegba (fourth from left) flanked by agency officials and other stakeholders during the meeting in Abuja.

Experts in the biosafety sector have reviewed the National Biosafety Guidelines for risk assessment and management of genetically modified (GM) stacked events to ensure Nigeria has a robust guiding instrument.

Making the presentation yesterday in Abuja, the director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, said the guidelines for genetically modified stacked events development by the staff of the agency need relevant inputs from experts to have a valid and solid instrument for biosafety regulation in the country.

“Stacked gene events imply a situation where an organism has more than a gene for its intended benefits. The government’s position is not to stop the activities of modern biotechnology but to deploy safe cutting-edge technology capable of revamping the agricultural sector to provide farmers with improved plants and seeds that portend a better economy and national food security.

“However, our sole responsibility as an agency is to ensure that whatever product that results from the practice of modern biotechnology is safe to human health, animals, plants and the environment. Let me categorically state that NBMA would never compromise standards at the expense of the country; it is the job of the government to protect its citizens and whatever product that is not safe will not be approved in the country,” he assured. 

He further said the agency’s concerns on stacked gene events are based on invasiveness, substantial equivalence, nutritional values and socio-economic benefits, adding that they are issues the agency considers for further decision. 

In his remarks, the senior programme officer, African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), Sam Timpo, commended the agency for being “the leading light on biosafety issues in Africa”. He noted that Nigeria’s biosafety system has become a model for other African countries, as they are willing to come to understudy the Nigerian biosafety system.

Timpo also noted that AUDA NEPAD will continue to support the Nigerian biosafety venture in ensuring the proper regulation of modern biotechnology and its products.

Earlier, the country coordinator of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Dr. Rose Gidado, eulogised the agency for its strict position to ensure that only safe GMOs and their derivatives are permitted in the country.

She noted that NBMA is highly known in Africa and beyond for its confirmed standards and strictness to promote the safety of human health, animals, plants and the environment while the world makes conscious effort to drive the economy with eco-friendly technology, to combat climate change impacts.    

Presenting the objectives of the review meeting, the NBMA head of planning research and statistics, Mrs. Bello Scholastica, stated the significance of the review.

She noted that it was necessary and timely to have robust national guidelines to checkmate stacked gene events in the country. Bellow was optimistic that, at the end of the day, Nigeria would have a refined document that addresses all areas of concern relating to stacked gene events.   

The review meeting was attended by experts from line ministries and agencies, foreign partners who joined and participated virtually, non-governmental organizations and various media organizations.

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