The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has debunked claims that it was established to stop Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and the development of modern biotechnology.
According to the agency, it was instituted to ensure that Nigerians and the environment are safe from any adverse impact that GMOs may have on human health and the environment.
Director-General of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, made this disclosure on Monday at a sensitisation workshop on ‘GMO safety and regulations in Nigeria’ to correct the misconception about the practice.
The workshop which was held in Lagos, and in partnership with African Biosafety Network Enterprise (ABNE) was targeted at sensitising agriculture stakeholders on the state of Biosafety in Nigeria with regards to genetically modified organisms.
Rufus who said that NBMA was established to promote the legal practice of biotechnology, noted that the concept of GMO was widely misinterpreted among Nigerians.
He restated that GM crops were safe for consumption as opposed to the information widely circulated in the public domain that the technology was dangerous to human health.
The DG stated that Nigeria needs to follow in the steps of the western world, as they have incorporated genetic modification of crops to enhance food security in their various countries.
“Globally, safe science and technology have been known to be drivers of economic change the world over, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind.
“That is why the Federal Government through NBMA makes sure it approves only safe application of modern biotechnology for the economic development of the country particularly in the Agricultural sector,” he said.
Rufus further noted that the Federal Government through NBMA is poised to protect the health of its citizens and the environment by providing case by case analysis of GMOs of the potential risk that may be associated with it.
He, however, noted that there are strict regulations in place to the practice of GMOs in the country. Any involvement in the illegal practice of GMOs, he stated, could attract a fine of N2.5 million naira, 5 years imprisonment, or both.
On her part, Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, lauded the sensitisation, stating that it would go a long way in alleviating the fears of many as regards genetically modified foods.
Represented by Gbolahan Adekunle, she beckoned on the media to help with changing the mindset of the public, stating that with biotechnology, the agricultural sector is equipped to do more.
Director of Lagos State Bio-bank, Dr. Mutiu Bamidele, who represented the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, said that the legal practice of GMO has been certified by the Ministry of Health, while validating the safety of GM crops.
He lauded the NMBA for putting the workshop in place, keying in the fact that GMO foods imported into the country are not just accepted but are also tested to ensure they are of standard.