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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Stakeholders in sector reject proposed amendment to Biosafety Act

Some stakeholders in biosafety sector on Wednesday, August 31, 2022, kicked against the amendment to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act,

Abdullahi Mustapha
Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA)

The stakeholders expressed their reservations on the bill at a public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Environment.

The bill was sponsored Sen.Yahaya Abdullahi (PDP-Kebbi).

Abdullahi had in the proposed amendment sought for strict regulation on foods that are genetically modified and perceived as health hazards .

He had specifically sought for labelling of Genetically Modified Foods (GMF) in the country for consumers to understand the difference between the GMF and natural ones.

He had recommended sanctions against violation of the proposed law.

However, at the public hearing, virtually all the stakeholders in the biosafety sector rejected the proposed legislation in separate submissions.

The Director’General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, said the proposed amendment of the act was unnecessary.

According to him, NABDA and other relevant agencies have been carrying out the regulation being sought for in preventing consumption of toxic chemicals by Nigerians.

”There is no reason; there is no justification for the proposed legislation as NABDA has made significant achievements on agriculture and vaccines production towards checkmating consumption of toxic chemicals from modified foods and addressing the problem of insecurity.

”It is on this achievement that President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the bill now Act, making NABDA to embark on wide range of research work and accessing international grants for its scientifically and technologically driven biotechnology development,” he said.

The President of All Farmers Association in Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Kabiru Ibrahim, also rejected the bill, saying that Nigerian farmers were up to the responsibility of providing food sufficiency in the country.

The Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights, Mr. Frank Tiete, said accepting the proposal would amount to violation of treaty entered into by Nigeria through the existing Act with 173 other countries across the globe.

“The 173 countries have ratified the protocol that had been domesticated as law in Nigeria.

“There is absolutely no need for the amendment of this law.

“The calls for amendment will simply open doors for confusion, open doors of vexations and frivolous gold digging litigation.

“An amendment in law and practice is as a result of where there is a mischief.

“Our submission is that the entirety of the proposed amendment is needless, it is inadvertently going to cause confusion, excite gold digging litigations.

“It will discourage scientists from innovation, biotechnology has helped the whole world,” he said.

Some members of the committee and Vice Chairman, Senators Hassan Hadeijia and Nnachi Michael, among others, also kicked against the bill.

By Kingsley Okoye

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