The Federal Government has said there is no iota of truth in the insinuation in some sections of the media that the fruits and beans currently available in the Nigerian market are genetically modified.
The director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, dispelled the rumour when he addressed newsmen in Abuja, saying what some people were calling GMOs were either hybrids or improved varieties.
He said the federal government through NBMA was always poised to protect the health of its citizens and the environment by providing case by case analysis of GMO and risk assessments.
“A lot of misinformation has been going round the public especially in the media space as some people have taken it upon themselves to misinform Nigerians and backlash the agency for doing its job and fulfilling its mandate of managing biosafety matters in Nigeria,” he stated.
Ebegba restated that his agency is charged with the responsibility of providing regulatory framework and institutional and administrative mechanism for safety measures in the application of modern biotechnology in the country with a view to preventing its adverse effects on human health, animals, plants and environment.
He said the NBMA was very thorough in its dealings, pointing out that before approval is granted for any product, the agency does not act alone as it awaits the review and recommendations of the National Biosafety Committee and the National Biosafety Technical Committee made up of experts from various fields which would meet to analyze and deliberate on the product.
Since the inception of the NBMA in 2015, he said Nigerians and the world had felt its obvious impact, adding the Nigerian biosafety system is well sort after in Africa and the world “as our regulations and guidelines have become models that other countries use in developing their own guidelines and regulations.
“The Nigerian biosafety system is a source of inspiration to other African countries and this is mainly due to our doggedness in ensuring that our mandate is achieved no matter the challenges. 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 the Nigerian people and just like our activities that have not gone unnoticed in Africa, it has not gone unnoticed worldwide,” he stated.
The NBMA boss averred that globally, safe science and technology have been known to be drivers of economic change world over and Nigeria could not afford to be left behind.
He assures Nigerians that the federal government through NBMA would always ensure the approval only of safe application of modern biotechnology for the economic development of the country particularly in the agricultural sector.
“The NBMA has not been resting on its oars in ensuring that only safe and approved genetically modified seed and grains for food and feed processing are 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.
“In line with the mandate that has been added to the agency, on regulating new modern biotechnologies such as gene drive, gene editing, synthetic biology and ensuring biosecurity, the agency has developed a draft national biosecurity policy which was presented to stakeholders by the minister of state for environment last December.
“The agency has equally developed gene editing guidelines which have 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,” he added.
He solicited the cooperation of the media in ensuring the dissemination of the right information about the activities of the agency, pointing out the government through the agency was doing everything possible to ensure that all Nigerians are all safe.