By Chinyere Anyanwu                                   [email protected]

In response to the proposed investigation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or biotechnology crops by the House of Representatives, the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has declared its readiness to cooperate with the legislature through provision of relevant information on the safety of the crops.

The head, Information and Public Relations of the agency, Mrs. Gloria Ogbaki, gave the assurance in a statement where she quoted the Director General, Dr. Yemisi Asagbra, who said that the agency will collaborate with the lawmakers and that it is committed to transparency and accountability in the discharge of its responsibilities to the country.

“The National Biosafety Management Agency respects the House of Representatives and takes note of the proposed investigation by the Committee on Agricultural Production and Services.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all citizens in relation to the development, introduction and responsible use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria,” Asagbra said,

Dr. Asagbra stated that the NBMA was established to provide regulatory oversight to ensure that the development, handling and responsible use of GMOs are safe for humans, animals and the environment.

The agency’s activities, she said, are guided by the National Biosafety Management Act, 2015 (as amended in 2019), which is in line with international biosafety standards and protocols including those of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Nigeria, the DG said, is party to the United Nations Conventions on Biodiversity (UNCBD) having ratified the Convention in 1992 and further ratified the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety in 2003. She added that pursuant to the NBMA Act, any GMO developed or introduced undergoes a comprehensive safety assessment before it is approved for use in Nigeria.

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She said: “This process involves scientific evaluations conducted by experts in various relevant fields, including but not limited to public health molecular biology, ecology and toxicology.

“The safety assessment review is done by NBMA’s National Biosafety Committee (NBC) and its Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) composed of experts from the various relevant agencies and the academia, namely National Agency for Food and  Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASCs), universities, and research institutions, among others.

“This ensures that the regulatory oversight of GMOs by NBMA meets strict safety standards and poses no adverse risks to health or the environment. The NBMA recognises the importance of transparency and public engagement, explaining that public consultations and awareness programmes are integral to our operations, ensuring that the voices of Nigerians are heard and considered.

“The agency regularly engages with stakeholders, including farmers, researchers, civil society organisations and the public, to provide information and address concerns regarding GMO’s.”

Asagbra said the agency is continuously striving to improve its processes and adapt to new scientific developments, saying, “we remain open to feedback and are committed to enhancing our regulatory framework to serve the interests of Nigerians better.

“Additionally, the NBMA operates with the same regulatory rigor and standards as other leading international biosafety agencies, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Australia’s Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, and African regulatory agencies such as the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) in Ghana and the National Biosafety Authority in Kenya.

“We assure all Nigerians that the NBMA remains dedicated to its mandate of safeguarding the health and environmental integrity of our nation. We encourage everyone to stay informed and engaged with our activities. Together, we can ensure that the benefits of modern biotechnology are harnessed safely and responsibly.”

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