The country coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigeria chapter, Dr. Rose Gidado, has described the just validated National Guidelines on Genetically Modified (GM) plants with stacked genes as a welcome development.
Speaking to journalists at the validation workshop organised by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in partnership with the African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) in Abuja, Gidado said the good development has put Nigeria in a league of her own in terms of ensuring the safe application of modern agricultural biotechnology.
“It is progress made. I don’t think other African countries have gone this far. Countries like Kenya, Malawi and many others have joined the league of nations in having a biosafety framework in place. So, we have now come out in Nigeria with a guideline that will do risk management and risk assessment of genetically modified crops that have stack genes. This is, of course, crops that have more than one gene, you know – a case in point is that of TELA Maize that has already been approved for general and environmental release.
“That means the gene of insert once they tell you that a crop has been generally released. It means that the gene of the insert is safe,” she said.
The country coordinator described plants with stacked genes as plants that have more than one gene of the insert.
“So, it is a stacked gene because the gene in it is more than two. We have the gene for Fall Armyworm resistance and, then, we have the gene for drought tolerance.
“These two genes – one for drought, in case of shortness of rainfall due to climate change and the other for resistance of insects like the stemborer and Fall Armyworm. So, the stacked gene strengthens the crop against insect resistance to the gene of insert,” she added.
The OFAB boss posited that validation of the document is going to have a positive impact on building trust, adding it shows that the NBMA knows what it is doing and is working according to international best practices.
“This document was reviewed, I think, some months ago and after our country review, it was subjected to international review. It was taken to experts out there to also go through what Nigeria has done – see if it is in line and compliant with the Cartagena Protocol. I think what they found is worthy and they made their input. So, today, it’s like we’re endorsing it.
“So, it means that we are ready in terms of safety because it’s meant to enhance safety, it’s risk assessment, risk management and risk mitigation.
“This is to repose confidence in the populace and people, consumers and among farmers that these things follow all the safety protocol and pass through all the necessary regulations before it is released for feed and consumption,” she added.