*‘Law establishing agency not hasty’
By Patrick Ugeh in Abuja
In reaction to those vehemently opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria, the Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, Mr. Rufus Ebegba, has assured that nobody would be forced to eat the products.
He stated that the introduction of GMOs was an alternative to the organic products so that those who wish to stick with the natural foods could do so while those who do not mind the technologically improved variants would be free to also do so.
“I want to assure you that the National Biosafety Management Agency is poised to effectively regulate modern biotechnology for the benefit of Nigerians and to allay the fears of the members of the public who wish to consume GMOs. It should be clear that no one would be forced to use or consume GMOs in Nigeria,” Ebegba said.
“The agency bases its decisions on science, taking into consideration national interest, socio-economic issues, human health and safety of the environment.”
Speaking at a news briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, Ebegba dismissed claims that the the enactment of the law setting up the regulatory body, NBMA, was hasty thus leaving room for loopholes.
He explained that it took 11 years – from 2002 to 2015 – for the law to be passed, first in 2009 and then, because it was not assented to by the then President, it lapsed at the end of the sixth National Assembly but was reintroduced, passed by the seventh National Assembly and signed into law in April 2015 after undergoing thorough scrutiny.
“Some people have expressed or entertain concerns on GM foods and feeds, claiming that the risks outweigh the benefits,” he acknowledged. “Such views are expected, especially as it relates to a new technology, but it is paradoxical that this set of people accept the advances that GM has recorded in healthcare hook, line and sinker.”