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Biosafety agency restates need to regulate emerging technologies

The Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, has called for the strict regulation of new and emerging aspects of the application of modern biotechnology.

NBMA public hearing
Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, at the Public Hearing

Dr. Ebegba in a submission on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 to the Public Hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Habitat to amend section 43 of the NBMA Act 2015, listed the new and emerging technologies to include gene drive, gene editing, synthetic biology and biosecurity.

“The NBMA supports the inclusion of the regulation of gene drive, gene editing, synthetic biology and biosecurity and other related matters in the NBMA Act 2015, since the use of their products and their practice is related to humans, animals, the environment and the economy hence biosafety measures need to be applied holistically. The proposed law is in tandem with international legal requirements in biodiversity conservation, taking into account human health,” he said.

According to him, the absence of regulation of these technologies might lead to a closed door on research and development and the immense contributions expected from these aspects in Nigeria.

“We are mindful of the fact that safe science, technology and innovation are drivers of change and wouldn’t want a situation where Nigeria will become a dumping ground for their products,” he added.

The DG told the gathering that the need to regulate evolving technologies cannot be over-emphasised, since offence cannot be said to have been committed in the absence of law.

Chairman, House Committee on Environment and Habitat, Obinna Chidoka, said the proposed bill would include the emerging technologies as they are critical aspects of modern biotechnology and as such it is very important to include them into the NBMA law.

“Our decisions will be guided by the need to do what is right for Nigerians,” he said.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who was represented by the Chief Whip of the House, Ado Dogo, said the bill would strengthen and enlarge the regulation of the potential effects of the new technologies on human health and the environment.

“It will also provide measures for effective public participation. The benefits of this inclusion are enormous as it will contribute to food security and ensure that Nigeria benefits from the safe use of these new technologies,” he added.

The bill for an act to amend the NBMA Act, 2015 to enlarge the scope of the application and include other evolving aspects of the application of modern Biotechnology in Nigeria with a view to preventing any adverse effect on human health and the environment; and for related matters, was sponsored by Chidoka.

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