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GMOs: Govt unveils national guidelines on gene editing

National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), on Thursday, February 10, 2022 in Abuja, unveiled national guidelines on gene editing to ensure improvement on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

Chief Executive Officer of NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba (in blue), presenting the validated guidelines on gene editing

Speaking at the public presentation of the validated guidelines on gene editing, Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba, said that all gene-edited products within the country were properly regulated.

According to Ebegba, gene editing is one of the emerging aspects of modern technology for the improvement of plants and animals, and probably micro-organisms and other organisms.

While emphasising the importance of the guidelines to the relevant laws, he stressed the need for adhering strictly to them so as to have organised research communities.

The director-general added that having an organised research society would guarantee safety of products to the environment and human health.

“The essence of gene-editing is basically to achieve specific aim.

“In this context, gene-editing implies either division or addition of a gene or material within a living system to achieve a specific aim.

“Sometimes, gene-editing process may involve insertion of new genes or novel materials and sometimes, it does not require the insertion of novel materials, and the outcome of such becomes a gene edited product.

“Within the gene-editing process itself, there are some products, due to the process of development, that fall squarely within the purview of bio-safety regulations, because those ones are referred to as genetically-modified products.

“However, those that do not fall within the purview of genetically-modified products may not require vigorous bio-safety process.

“Those that fall squarely within the purview of GMOs need to be given a vigorous review process,’’ he said.

Ebegba, who urged the stakeholders to comply with the regulations, pledged the agency’s commitment to ensuring that all gene edited products were brought to NBMA’s notice to ensure proper regulations within the country.

According to the NBMA boss, stakeholders in the sector are expected to use it to guide their processes so that their products will be accepted.

“This will guarantee safety to human health and the environment,” he said.

Dr Andrew Iloh, a scientist with Sheda Science and Technology Complex, said that the guidelines would provide the opportunity to do gene editing and genetic engineering the right way.

Iloh encouraged scientists to pick up copies of the guideline and share with their colleagues, particularly those in the academia.

By Vivian Emoni and Ikenna Uwadileke

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