The Federal Government is currently putting together guidelines for the regulation of stacked gene organisms in the country, the director-general, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, has said.
He made this known at a two-day meeting on the development of a guidance document on risk assessment of and decision making on GM plants stacked transformation events in Abuja, restating the firm position of NBMA as a watch dog over the activities of modern biotechnology in the country.
“Stacked gene organisms are nothing different from what we have had over times and the technology is a step further in the manipulation of genes of organisms for their intended benefits. It is a modification that has more than one gene in a particular organism,” he pointed out.
The NBMA boss disclosed that the agency from next month would start the process and pledged a reflection of expertise by the time the drafted guidelines would be ready for the public to use.
He assured Nigerians that only GMOs that have been confirmed to be safe by the regulatory body would be allowed in the country as government was adopting safe technology that would enhance our socio-economic needs and also guarantee a prosperous economy as a sign of keeping pace with the global efforts in economic diversification and the use of cutting-edge technology in driving economy-cum-agriculture specifically, for higher productivity and wealth creation.
“The previous guidelines developed have been tested to measure up to the global standard. The level of human resources in the agency is a thing to be proud of. The agency is blessed with the calibre of staff it has, and each and every one of them has been instrumental to the success story of the agency since inception. In the same vein, I honestly believe that the agency would have a template for the rest of Africa in no distant time,” he stressed.
Ebegba also disclosed the government’s resolve for training and retraining of the staff as a way of building more confidence in the system.
In his remarks, the country representative for Program for Biosafety Systems, Dr. Matthew Dore, recognized the unquantifiable effort of NBMA in its six years of existence.
While urging it to maintain its tempo in leading Africa in biosafety matters, he said the agency under the auspices of the Minister of Environment with support from the government had not only achieved a lot, but had also made Nigeria proud among countries in Africa and beyond.
“Other African countries today are looking up to Nigeria for guidance and recommendations viz-a-viz biosafety matters’’ he added.
In his address, the director, African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) AUDA-NEPAD, Dr. Jeremy ouedraogo, said the immense advantages of stacked genes made it important to be adopted and properly regulated to ensure the smooth practice devoid of health threats to human health and the ecosystem.
Noting that science is based on proof and evidence, he explained that “the regulation of this novel dimension of the technology would be based on concrete proofs and when released would be safe and remain safe for human use. It is a new way of having improved products for our common good. I count on Nigeria biosafety system; it is always showing the rest of African countries the way and I look forward to seeing a sound guideline that will lead scientists and those dealing in GMOs on how to go about stacked gene products.”