The federal government has stated that there is no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) being “officially” grown in the country.
Amina Mohammed, the Minister for Environment, said in a statement Monday that the government had only approved field trials.
“All the GMOs in Nigeria officially approved are under experimental fields, the insect resistant cotton for commercial release will still be subjected to further processes for the next two years,” Ms. Mohammed said in a statement issued by Isiaka Yusuf, Director, Press, Federal Ministry of Environment.
The minister’s clarification came as civil society groups continued to push for the country to distance itself from GMOs.
Last month, the National Biosafety Management Agency issued two permits for the Commercial Release and Placing on Market of genetically modified cotton, and the confined field trial of maize, to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited.
The two permits are: ‘Permit for Commercial release/ Placing on Market of Cotton (MON15985) genetically modified for lepidopteran insect pest resistance’ with Permit No: NBMA/CM/IM/001 and ‘Permit for Confined Field Trial (CFT) of maize (NK603 and MON 89034 x NK603) genetically modified for insect resistance and herbicide tolerance’ with Permit No: NBMA/C FT/001.
Ms. Mohammed said Nigeria had taken laudable strides in order to adopt the necessary legal biosafety framework and policy, “bearing in mind that if Nigeria gets it right, it will guide other African countries.”
The statement further quoted the minister as saying the NBMA with the Nigerian Customs, the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Ministry of Justice, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, National Seed Council, Science and regulatory based institutions, the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) and African Biosafety Network of Expertise, (ABNE), among others.
“The NBMA has the onerous task to ensure that potential impacts of the GMO on human or animal health, the environment and the socio-economic effects are carefully weighed and the risk assessment fully carried out before being released,” the minister added.
While describing the concerns on GMOs expressed by the public as legitimate, Ms. Mohammed said the Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the NBMA, is organising an experts meeting involving civil society groups, National Agencies and International Organisations to address all concerns expressed and clarify Nigeria’s position on the use of GMOs.
“Nigerians should be rest assured of the protection of their health and environment by the National Biosafety Management Agency,” she added.