GMOs, Others: Biosafety Act is Safety Valve, Says NBMA DG

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By Patrick Ugeh in Abuja

The Director -General of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, has described the calls by a group and some individuals for the repeal of the National Biosafety Management Agency Act, 2015, as frivolous and most unpatriotic.

It is the act that regulates genetically modified organisms, among other biotechnologically produced items, to increase their availability and bring about food security with a view to ensuring their safety. But a group has been canvassing for the law to be repealed.

 “Such a request is a call for the opening of the floodgates, which is geared towards subjecting Nigeria to unrestricted importation and production of unregulated modern biotechnology products,” Ebegba declared.

The Director -General averred that the Nigerian Biosafety Act had been adjudged by international  watchers as one of the best in Africa after having painstakingly passed through stringent processes that lasted for more than a decade.

He emphasised that it was indeed ridiculous to assert that the Act was not in accordance with the precautionary principles when, in fact, the whole Act was a major legal precautionary instrument itself in the National Biosafety regulatory system.

Ebegba said that the repeal of the act would render the more than 20 indigenous research institutes, universities, agencies and the private concerns that had competence in the biotechnology sector stagnant and redundant in a global sphere that was fast moving towards safe modern biotechnological advancement.

He however urged all well-meaning Nigerians who genuinely feel that a gap exists in the Act to be patriotic enough to collaborate with the Agency in seeking the amendment of the knotty section

. instead of carpeting the National Assembly ‎and calling for a legal lacuna that would give room to anarchy in the modern biotechnology sector.

Ebegba further assured that the NBMA was poised to ensure that only healthy ‎and environmentally friendly modern biotechnology products were allowed or produced in the country.

He therefore enjoined Nigerians to trust and cooperate with the Agency in its bid to effectively regulate a technology that would assist the Federal Government to diversify her economy.

In a statement made available to THISDAY by Ovuakporie Efe, Ag. Head, Press and Protocol Unit of the agency, Ebegba noted that the processes leading to the actualisation of the NBMA Act predated 2002 and spanned over 14 years to get to its final stage of enactment in 2015.

According to him, the Draft National Biosafety Bill was subjected to various stakeholders’ reviews within the six geographical ‎zones in Nigeria and was passed by both the sixth and seventh National Assemblies.

Ebegba further stated that the call was a call for lawlessness in the administration of modern biotechnology in the country, a situation that could bring deleterious consequences.

“It is pertinent to advise that criticism be constructive with a view to improving Nigeria rather than carrying out a malicious propaganda to run down genuine government actions,” he said.

It is important to understand what Biosafety entails, especially as it pertains to the regulations of modern biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), he added.