By Michael Eboh & Fortune Eromosele
The National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, yesterday, said it has commenced the drafting of rules and guidelines for the regulation of modern biotechnology practices and products in the country, such as genome editing.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Director General of the NBMA, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, disclosed that the essence of these guidelines was to ensure proper regulation of these areas and also to guarantee that only safe products are deployed for humans and the environment.
Already, he noted that the NBMA had been in close relations with its international affiliates ensuring that issues of biosafety were not relegated to the back seat in Nigeria.
He explained that following the signing into law of the amended NBMA Act, the agency had created a biosecurity department and a special unit, the biosecurity intelligence unit, to ensure that its mandates are carried out and also make sure that Nigerians derive the maximum benefits from biotechnology products.
He stated that the new inclusion was apt and highly commendable because, according to him, due to the emergence of new biotechnologies, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind in checking if these technologies are safe for humans and the environment.
He insisted that it was the mandate of the NBMA to ensure that modern biotechnology and its products are safe, adding that the NBMA had not been resting on its oars in ensuring that only approved genetically modified seed and grains for food and feed processing is allowed into the Nigerian market.
To this end, Ebegba stated that this had led to the constant upgrade of its Genetically Modified detection and analysis Laboratory, constant inspection of GMO facilities, confined field trial sites and multi-locational trial sites.
According to him, this was for proper surveillance, tracking and monitoring of Genetically-modified organisms, GMO, in Nigeria.
He said, “On the 29tth of July, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law a bill to amend the NBMA Act of 2015, to include the regulation of new and emerging areas of biotechnology which are gene drive, gene editing, synthetic biology and biosecurity in Nigeria with a view to preventing any adverse effect to human health and environment.”
He added that since the new addition to the NBMA Act, the agency had partnered with other organizations locally and internationally in efforts to ensure that the country achieves its mandate of safeguarding human health and the environment.
“I want to use this medium to assure Nigerians that the Federal Government through the agency is doing everything possible to ensure that we are all safe. Nigerians need not be afraid as their health and wellbeing are paramount in the mind of the agency as they relate to biosafety,” Ebegba maintained.
He added that as part of efforts to boost capacity of the staff, the agency had continued to train staff locally and internationally on various aspects of Biosafety, noting that this was to equip and prepare them for the huge task of protecting the country from unapproved GMOs.