Abuja – The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) says it will not disrupt the legitimate activities of seeds and grains dealers across the country.
The Director-General of NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba, gave the assurance on Monday in Abuja when he spoke at the Consultative Forum with Genetically Modified (GM) Seeds and Grains Dealers in Nigeria.
Ebegba said that the forum would afford all the participants to brainstorm on the way forward in efforts to maximise the benefits of GM seeds and crops.
‘‘NBMA will work together with companies that want to deal on importation and release of GM seeds and grains, provided they have permit from the appropriate quarters.
‘‘We are an unbiased umpire that ensures that the practice of modern biotechnology is safe for the citizens, while boosting the nation’s economy,’’ he said.
Ebegba said that the agency would not hesitate to enforce the law backing it up in dealing with those who flouted the extant regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country, no matter who was involved.
‘‘The agency was not established by the Federal Government to stop or promote GMOs but its mandate is to ensure that GMOs are safe for human health and the environment.
‘‘Anyone or company that wants to import or release GM seeds and grains should get a permit from the NBMA because there are laws and procedures that must be followed; so we all must play by the rules.’’
The director-general stressed that the NBMA was proactive and would not tolerate any illegalities or shortcuts, adding that it would strive to protect the lives of Nigerians and the integrity of their environment.
‘‘The essence of ensuring that permit is granted before the release of any GM seeds, grains or organisms is to ensure that risks assessment is carried out to ascertain their safety to the environment and human health,’’ he said.
Ebegba, therefore, advised all stakeholders to abide by the extant Biosafety laws to avoid any form of sanction, saying that ‘‘the advice is in line with the NBMA Act, Part VII.
“It states that no person, institution or body shall import, export, transit or commercialise any genetically modified organism or product intended for direct use as food or feed, or for processing unless with the approval of the Agency.
‘‘The NBMA is by this Act empowered to sanction any erring party for importing or releasing unauthorised genetically modified products, be it grains or any kind of seed, as the case may be.
‘‘The Act made it clear that any person, institution or body that wishes to import, export, transit or otherwise carry out such activities, or undertake confined field trial, multi-locational trial or commercial release of a GMO, shall apply to the Director-General of NBMA prior to such activity.’’
Ebegba assured the citizens that their safety was the priority of NBMA and urged them to see the agency as a dependable body that would protect their interests.
‘‘We are working closely with other line agencies to ensure that the GM seeds and grains which are released to the public are safe for consumption.
‘‘We want to assure our sister agencies that we will not encroach on their activities but collaborate with them to ensure a healthy and safe environment.
‘‘We are working closely with agencies like NAFDAC, Nigerian Customs Service, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Council, Standards Organisation of Nigeria and others to ensure smooth operations,’’ he said.
In his speech, Dr Olusegun Ojo, the Director- General of NASC, said that people who produced and marketed seeds and grains without proper accreditation would, henceforth, not be tolerated.
‘‘We have producers who produce and market seeds and grains across the country without compliance to the rules and regulations of the council.
‘‘Ignorance of the law is not an excuse; so we have started impounding seeds and grains that are not accredited and approved by the council.’’ (NAN)