Genetically modified foods not yet approved in Nigeria – Agency

The Nigeria Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has faulted reports that it has approved the distribution of genetically modified foods in Nigeria.

The director-general of the agency, Rufus Ebegba, spoke on at a press briefing on Thursday in Abuja while reacting to calls for the scrapping of NBMA over its approval of Genetical Modified Organisms (GMOs).

“The claims by the media organisations that there are GM foods are completely false,” Mr Egbeba said.

“The GMOs so far approved by the NBMA are not yet in the market, even though approvals have been given for their commercial release,” he said.

He said the GMOs still have to still undergo other instant procedures at the National Seed Service under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that NBMA was being criticised over its method of granting permits for commercialisation of GM food crops in Nigeria.

Critics said the agency was hasty in granting approvals without considering the safety concerns raised by Nigerians.

The Nigerian government established NBMA to regulate the potentials of modern biotechnology and its derivatives for the benefit of Nigerians.

Nigeria officially signed the Biosafety Bill into law in 2015, making it eligible to join the league of nations already using genetic engineering (GE), also called genetic modification (GM), to boost food production.

“With the establishment of the NBMA, dumping of unauthorised GMOs into Nigeria is now at the barest minimum,” the director-general of the agency said.

“The risk to human Health from modern biotechnology practice and the use of GMOs are at their barest minimum,” he said.

Mr Ebegba emphasised on the negative effect of the absence of Biosafety system, saying it will lead to the dumping of unauthorised GMOs on the country.

“Those calling for the scrapping of NBMA are directly paving way for dumping of GMOs in the country thus enriching the countries from which these crops are imported,” he said.

He said the agency has set up two committees to examine the application of the countries that import GMOs before recommending them to the agency.

The two are the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) and the National Biosafety Technical sub Committee (NBTS).

” The agency will continue to ensure that only safe GMOs will be allowed in Nigeria as the agency has full structural and human capacity to ensure the safety of Nigerians,” he said.

“The absence of a Biosafety system will amount to the dumping of unauthorised GMOs into the country with its attendant adverse effect on humans, animals, the environment and the economy,” he said

The Nigerian government has reportedly approved for use its first genetically modified crop: the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea (popularly called beans).

This was after it had been genetically modified to resist the pest – Maruca Vitrata, and was developed by the Institute For Agricultural Research at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

The cowpea, by this development, becomes the first genetically modified food crop to be approved in the country.

Two months after it approved commercialisation of transgenic cotton varieties, a development heavily kicked against by environmental activist, the agency later approved GM cowpea, popularly known in Nigeria as beans.

NBMA had warned stores across the country to desist from importing genetically modified foods without permits.

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