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Dr. Asagbra Affirms NBMA’s Dedication to Ensuring Biosafety in Nigeria

Dr. Asagbra Affirms NBMA’s Dedication to Ensuring Biosafety in Nigeria

By Lawrence Audu

The Director General and CEO of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Yemisi Asagbra, has underlined the commitment of the agency to fulfilling its objectives in order to establish a bio-secure environment in Nigeria.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Asagbra emphasized the pivotal role of biosafety in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, while also addressing prevalent misconceptions surrounding the safe utilization of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and biosafety protocols.

Dr. Asagbra highlighted that biosafety transcends mere policy enactment; it embodies a resolute dedication to safeguarding the nation’s health, preserving biodiversity, and protecting the environment.

She averred that, in regulating the activities of modern biotechnology, biosafety ensures that any technological advancements, particularly in agriculture, are beneficial and pose no harm to people or the land.

It is worthy of note that, Nigeria has been proactive in the field of biosafety, recognizing early on the potential of modern biotechnology and the need for a robust regulatory framework. The country signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in May 2000 and ratified it in October 2003, committing to global biodiversity management. This international agreement aims to ensure the safe handling, transport, and use of living-modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.
In 2015, after years of deliberation and stakeholder engagement, Nigeria took a significant step by enacting the National Biosafety Management Agency Act. This act was established to provide a regulatory framework for the safe application of biotechnology and to manage the potential adverse effects of GMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The Biosafety Law in Nigeria is crucial for several reasons including
Environmental Protection which ensures that GMOs do not harm Nigeria’s rich biodiversity, which includes about 7,895 plant species and 22,000 vertebrate and invertebrate species.

In the area of Public Health, the law safeguards human health from potential risks associated with GMOs, including food safety concerns.

By regulating modern biotechnology, the law supports Nigeria’s agricultural modernization and industrialization, contributing to economic growth. This is in addition to scientific advancement which provides a framework for ethical scientific research and innovation in biotechnology, fostering advancements while ensuring safety and ethical considerations.

On the case of Tela Maize, Dr Asagbra said, a variety that has been rigorously evaluated through risk assessments and regulatory processes before its approval.

“It’s crucial to note that though it has been commercialized, TELA Maize has not yet been launched; it is not available in the market. This demonstrates our commitment to thorough scrutiny and due diligence”

On the role of Nigerian scientists, Dr Asagbra said: “The technologies we approve are critically evaluated by Nigerian scientists—professionals with vast experience and expertise in their fields. Their assessments are meticulous, ensuring that only safe and beneficial technologies reach our farmers and consumers.”

The establishment of the NBMA she said, has led to the development of biosafety frameworks of international standards, including a GMO detection and analysis laboratory, national biosafety policies, and regulatory instruments. These measures have positioned Nigeria as a leader in biosafety regulation in Africa, influencing other countries’ biosafety practices.

Comparatively to other African countries, “Nigeria’s biosafety processes are at par with, if not ahead of, those in other African countries like Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa. Our agency has received international recognition for its robust regulatory framework, which serves as a model for biosafety and biotechnology regulation across the continent.

“These countries also have robust biosafety regulations but our Biosafety system still ranks high because of the top notch international standard that is applied. For instance, Kenya has been at the forefront of GMO research and commercialization in Africa, with its National Biosafety Authority approving the environmental release of Bt cotton.

“Similarly, South Africa has been growing GMO crops since 1997 and has a well-established regulatory system.”

The DG emphasized again that, the Biosafety Law in Nigeria is more than just legislation, but a commitment to the nation’s sustainable future. It ensures that as Nigeria harnesses the benefits of modern biotechnology, it does so responsibly, with the utmost regard for the health of its people and the environment
let us embrace the advancements in safe modern biotechnology with an informed perspective.


Dr. Asagbra Affirms NBMA’s Dedication to Ensuring Biosafety in Nigeria

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