The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has reiterated its commitment to ensure the safety of the public while applying modern biotechnology to boost food security and economic development of citizens.
Dr Rufus Ebegba, Director- General, NBMA, gave the assurance at a meeting to review the National Guidelines of the Regulation of Gene Editing, on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 in Abuja.
Ebegba said the NBMA was amended in 2019 to include the application of gene drive, gene editing and synthetic biology and biosecurity which says that “No person, institution or body shall carry out gene drive, gene editing and synthetic biology except with the approval of the agency”.
He said the act was ammended to ensure a holistic biosafety regime and the protection of human health, as a result of biotechnology evolution and development.
“These guidelines are not to impede on the technology, but to see how this technology is applied, to enhance our economy and to assist the government in developing the dividend of democracy and what is required of government to the people of Nigeria.
“We believe our country must be diversified. In this regard Science and Technology are key, safe technology is key.
“It is our responsibility as a regulatory agency to properly scrutinise gene edited products, carry out risk assessment and come up with risk management approaches.
“The agency will continue to do its best and move with the tide of events and leave no gap in ensuring that modern biotechnology products are adequately regulated, so they do not have adverse effect on the environment and human health,” he said.
According to him, gene editing means alteration of the genome of an organism, either by transfer of the gene to another organism, or direct editing without transferring any gene from another organism.
Ebegba said the draft had been circulated to stakeholders, with the view of ensuring no gaps were left that would make implementation difficult.
Mrs Nkeiruka Ajah, Head, Legal, NBMA, said the objective of the meeting was to review the draft national guidelines, on the regulation of gene editing.
Ajah said this would be done within the context of regulatory considerations, that create an enabling environment for the safe application of gene editing, as a tool for crop and animal improvement.
“We expect the guideline that will come out will be a a good document which will in turn, be a good model,” she said.
Mrs Modupe Adeyemo of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), in her remarks, identified the role of modern biotechnology to the socio-economic development of any nation.
“In respect to this, there is need for capacity building to regulate such technologies to ensure safe adoption and improvement for advancement of agriculture,” Adeyemo said.
Adeyemo, who noted that Nigeria always set the pace for other member states, lauded the NBMA for always being proactive in taking initiatives that had put Africa on the global map.
She reiterated the AUDA-NEPAD’s support for NBMA and the Nigerian government.
“We will continue to lift Africa onwards, in developing our social economy,” she assured.
By Okeoghene Akubuike