Biosafety Management Agency assures Nigerians of GMOs safety
The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has assured Nigerians of the safety of the Genetically Modified Organisms, saying that the agency has put in place policies to ensure satisfactory regulations in the country.
The Director-General of the Agency, Dr Rufus Ebegba, was given this assurance while speaking at a sensitisation workshop in Lagos.
Themed “Sensitisation Workshop on GMO Safety and Regulation in Nigeria”, the workshop was held in collaboration with African Biosafety Network Enterprise (ABNE) to enlighten journalists and other stakeholders on the safety of GMOs in Nigeria.
According to the DG, all genetically modified products that have been released so far in the country have been confirmed safe by the agency, adding that they will not relent in their effort to ensure the safety of Nigeria.
He said, “Our biosafety system ensures the safety of the application of modern biotechnology to human health and the environment. So far, none of the GMOs approved in Nigeria has any risks associated with the products.
“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 analyse, deliberate on the product, and decisions are taken after a careful and thorough analysis of the application. This rigorous process most times extends to days of deliberation and careful analysis.”
Ebegba also noted that the agency is aware that there has been lots of miscommunication in the public domain regarding the state of biosafety in the country.
“The agency is aware of a group of people going around to say GMOs are harmful and that the National Biosafety Management Agency should repeal to desist from it.
“Let me state here that NBMA was not created to stop GMOs but to ensure that Nigerians and the environment are safe from any adverse impact they might have on human health and the environment. Since coming into existence, the agency has put in place regulations, guidelines, and policies to ensure that the products of modern technology (GMOs) can be deployed safely in Nigeria.
“Nigeria National Biosafety legislation is consistent with international trends for regulatory systems to incorporate high levels of transparency, accountability and strong enforcement capabilities
“We are working tirelessly to approve only safe and authorised genetically modified seed and grains for food which had passed through the scrutiny of multiple experts drawn from stakeholders.
The DG said that the agency was also in partnership with sister agencies on surveillance and monitoring to ensure that the Nigerian borders were well monitored in case of any unapproved GM import.”
Speaking on the role of the media in Biosafety communication, Gloria Ogbanki, Head Press and Protocol, NBMA, called on participants to provide transparent, factual, and timely information about the safety of modern biotechnology to the public, to build trust in the system.
She noted that when false information is passed to the public it burdens the load on the regulator and his work becomes more difficult
According to her, media practitioners owe it to themselves and the public to always confirm information before broadcasting and publishing.
She urged them to report breakthroughs to the farmers.
Speaking earlier, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, commended the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) for enlightening the public on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country.
Abayomi, who was represented by Mr Mutiu Bamidele, praised the agency for organising the workshop to enlighten the journalists on the proper use of GMOs.
“It is a good development for NBMA to put this workshop together. Since last year, there has been a pandemic and a workshop like this is key for safety.
“There has been the usage of chemicals and disinfectants which are harmful to the environment, and so stakeholders must be educated on GMO.
“There is need to be reminded and assured that the nation is not folding its hands but ensuring the safety of Nigerians,” he said.
Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs Abisola Olusanya, who was represented by Mr Saba Gbolahan, also said that biosafety to agriculture was of great revenue. Adding that the sensitisation will go a long way in allaying the fears of many.
“What we have been practising needs to improve, and with biotechnology, we can do much more,” he said.
Other topics discussed included “Overview of modern Biotechnology, its products, and Biosafety concerns; GM Food Safety, Biosafety: Imperative for Socio-economic Development, and Global Biosafety practice.
At the end of the one-day workshop, which had 26 participants, participants expressed gratitude to the organisers for providing them with insights into the Biosafety Regulations and Global Biosafety practice in Nigeria.