The director-general of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, has said the agency remains committed to ensuring that Nigeria’s biodiversity is safe and protected in the application of modern biotechnology.
He made this known at a stakeholders’ review meeting of biosafety draft guidelines for GM fish, GM animals, GM food/feed safety and GM grain import in Abuja, saying the review of the draft was one of the many efforts by the NBMA to ensure a robust biosafety system in the country and aimed at giving all the stakeholders the opportunity to make their inputs for the country to have standard guidelines.
“It is important to state here that developing guidelines are being done all over the world as measures to protect human health and ecosystem from the adverse effects that could result from the practice of modern biotechnology. We recognize the controversies surrounding GMOs globally and we are ready to address them hence the development of guidelines for smooth operation,” he said.
He restated the firm position of the agency to continue to partner line ministries and agencies to ensure the mandate and objectives of the NBMA are realized.
“Our position is to ensure the safety of human health and environment while deriving the benefits of modern biotechnology. Safety is our watchword,’’ he stated, adding the proficiency of the staff was something to be proud of, more so that training workshops are organized from time to time to acquaint and upskill them to keep them abreast with the system.
In her remarks, the agency’s head of department of planning, research and statistics, Mrs Bello Scholastica, who spoke on the objectives of the workshop noted that the Federal Government recognized the significance of driving the economy with safe science and technology hence it established a regulatory agency (NBMA) to superintend the practice.
She further said the NBMA would continue to discharge its responsibility for the good of all.
Earlier, the country coordinator programme for biosafety systems (PBS), Dr. Mathew Dore, acknowledged the great work the NBMA has been doing since inception and encouraged the agency to maintain the high standard.
He said Nigerians had become more aware of the presence of the NBMA and the great work it stands for.
He added that the agency’s impact was felt beyond Nigeria, urging the government to put in resources to enable it discharge its responsibility the more as many African countries now look up to Nigeria’s guidelines to replicate.
The draft guidelines that were reviewed included GM fish, GM animal, GM food/feed safety and the guidelines on grain import was validated by stakeholders.
In her goodwill message, the country coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Dr. Rose Gidado, said Nigeria should not be concerned about the safety of the GM products because the country has standard international guidelines for biotechnology regulation.
“Practice of modern biotechnology and what they are doing now is to try and carry out implementation by drafting these guidelines. The guidelines are to guide the people and according to international and national standards.
“These guidelines is a starting point, they draft the guidelines take it to the stakeholders to look into it, to review it, and to make sure that everything that is there is according to the world standard or international standard.
“Nigeria should not be concerned about the safety because we already have the agency as the safety value in place. The agency is well capacitated, their staffs are well trained and they make sure that what is out there is implemented and enforced,” she added.
Stakeholders in attendance at the meeting included representatives from National Agency for Food and Drug Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), National Biotechnology Development Agency (NBDA), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (department of fisheries, department of veterinary control), Federal Ministry of Justice and Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN).