By Chimezie Godfrey
The Director General/CEO, National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr. Rufus Ebegba has said that fruits and beans in the Nigerian market are not genetically modified as insinuated.
He made this known during a press briefing on Tuesday at the National Park Services Headquarters in Abuja.
The DG noted that the Federal Government through the NBMA is determined to protect the health and environment of its citizens.
He said, “I want to restate here that the fruits and beans available in the Nigerian market presently are not genetically modified as insinuated rather they are either hybrids or improved.
“The federal government through NBMA is always poised to protect the health of its citizens and the environment by providing case by case analysis of GMO and risk assessments.
“The NBMA has not been resting on its oars in ensuring that only safe and approved genetically modified seed and grains for food and feed processing are allowed into the Nigerian market hence the constant upgrading of our GM detection and analysis Laboratory and our constant Inspection of GMO facilities, confined field trial sites and multi-locational trial sites.
“This is for proper Surveillance, tracking and monitoring of GMOs in Nigeria.”
“Since the inception of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in 2015, the obvious impact of the Nigerian Biosafety Authority has been felt all over the globe. From the decision to approve Bt Cotton for environmental release in 2016 to the decision to approve PBR Cowpea for environmental release in 2019, the NBMA has made decisions based on scientific facts for the benefit of the Nigerian people and just like our activities that have not gone unnoticed in Africa, it has not gone unnoticed worldwide.
“This is why the Nigerian Biosafety system is well sought after in Africa and the world as our regulations and guidelines have become models that other countries use in developing their own guidelines and regulations.
“The Nigerian biosafety system is a source of inspiration to other African countries and this is mainly due to our doggedness in ensuring that our mandate is achieved no matter the challenges, safety is our watchword.”
Ebegba, revealed that MOUs have been signed with various sister agencies such as the Standard Organization of Nigeria, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and rural development amongst others to ensure monitoring and prevention of unapproved GM products import.
He expressed displeasure over the role of some people to backlash the agency by misinforming Nigerians.
He insisted that the NBMA is not relenting on its mandates and urged Nigerians to trust the agency in delivering its mandate, and believe only what the federal government and the NBMA says.
According to him, a lot of misinformation has been going around, especially in the media space by some people who have been backlashing the Agency for doing its job and fulfilling its mandate of managing biosafety matters in Nigeria.
“It is important to state here that the NBMA is charged with the responsibility of providing regulatory framework and institutional and administrative mechanism for safety measures in the application of modern Biotechnology in Nigeria, with a view to preventing its adverse effects on human health, animals, plants and 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. Let me say this categorically that whatever the Agency says is safe is indeed safe.
“Nigerians should learn to trust the federal government and allow the Agency do what will be in their best interest. Nigerians need not be afraid as their health and wellbeing are paramount in the mind of the Agency as they relate to Biosafety.
“I have said it before and will say it again, the NBMA is very thorough in its dealings and before any approval is granted, the National Biosafety Committee and the National Biosafety technical Committee meet to analyze, deliberate on the product which most times spans for two days and decisions are taken after careful and thorough analysis of the application.
“The NBMA does not act on its own as these committees consist of experts drawn from sister Agencies, line ministries, scientists, Non-governmental Organizations, farmers and many other expert stakeholders who after their review make their recommendation to the NBMA for further action,” he said.
He further revealed that the much needed economic change, especially in the agricultural sector would not be achieved without the use of safe scientific and technological practices which have been adopted globally.
On the new mandate of regulating modern biotechnologies, Ebegba said that the Agency apart from developing a draft National Biosecurity policy, has equally developed gene editing guidelines which have been validated by stakeholders.
The NBMA boss appealed to the media not to serve as media of dissemination of falsehood and creating panic.
He stressed that the agency is aware of the malicious intention of a particular NGO to poison the minds of the members of the public on the application of safe modern biotechnology and the attempt to discredit the NBMA.