PRESS RELEASE - Nigeria has finally joined the league of Biotechnology countries

Date Posted: 
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By Prof. Lucy Jumeyi Ogbadu, Director-General/CEO, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Abuja

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President Goodluck Jonathan has signed the National Biosafety Agency Bill, which is a milestone in the domestication of modern biotechnology in Nigeria a giant stride that will allow the country to join the league of countries advanced in the use of this cutting edge technology as another window to boost economic development in Nigeria. It will create more employment, boost food production that will put a smile on the faces of farmers and elevate hunger if given good attention by government.

The National Biosafety Act is crucial in the management of Modern Biotechnology in the country. Modern Biotechnology has been identified as an important tool that can help countries to achieve food sufficiency/food security, industrial growth, health improvement and environmental sustainability while the Biosafety Act will give the legal framework to check the activities of modern biotechnology locally as well as imported GM crops into the country as well as providing avenue to engage Nigerian scientist s/experts from different fields to identify and pursue solutions to our local challenges”.

The Biosafety Law also recognizes the complex issues to be addressed by Central Authorities in the judicious application of Modern Biotechnology; it bases the deliberate release of GMO on Advance Informed Agreement (AIA)”.

Biosafety Law

  1. Defines offences and Penalty for violation of the act
  2. Contains powers to authorize release of GMOs and practice of modern biotechnology activities.
  3. Confers the power to carry out risk assessment/management before the release, handling and use of GMOs,
  4. Covers all genetically modified organisms/Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) and products thereof including food/feed and processing.
  5. Covers socio-economic consideration in risk assessment

The Benefits of Modern Biotechnology include, among others, the following:

  • Capacity for improve food security
  • Environmental protection and conservation through production of stress tolerant planting materials for re-vegetation, re-afforestation, soil binding for erosion control as well as genetically enhanced organisms for bioremediation of oil polluted sites
  • Improvement in plants and animals yields as well as nutritional values
  • Production of new breeds/varieties of animals and plants.
  • Reduction in the use of pesticides
  • Reduction in farming land area with higher yields, facilitates Job and wealth creation, leads to better health facilities,
  • Promotion of bioorganic fertilizer development and industrial growth through feedstock development.
  • Promotion and development of biopharmaceuticals production, Stem Cell technology, biometrics, etc in Nigeria
  • Biodiversity conservation

Purpose of the Law

The Biosafety Law is for an act to provide for the management of Biosafety and other related matters and it seeks to:

  • Harness the potentials modern biotechnology has to offer under a legal regulatory regime.
  • Ensure environmental, human and socio-economic safety while harnessing the benefits associated with the practice of modern biotechnology and its outputs,
  • Exercise the sovereign right over all the nation’s natural resources and authority to regulate access to such resources.
  • Allay the fear of the populace on the socio-economic consequences of modern biotechnology, especially among the small scale farming systems that are prevalent in Nigeria.
  • Reaffirm Nigeria’s commitment to the principles of the World Trade Organization and to reaffirm Nigeria’s commitment to the goals and objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which Nigeria has signed and ratified.      
  • Safe use of modern biotechnology and provide holistic approach to the regulation of modified organisms in Nigeria.
  • Safeguard human health and the environment from any potential; adverse effect of genetically modified organism including food safety.
  • Provide measures for the assessment of genetically modified organism and management of risk in order to ensure safety in the use of genetically modified organisms to human health and the environment.
  • Ensure that the use of the genetically modified organism does not have undesired impact on socio – economic and cultural interest either at the community or National level.
  • Ensure the Law makes provision for the establishment of a competent agency which would work in line with existing institutional bodies to prevent unsafe use of genetically modified organisms as well as develop risk managements plan and strategy for protecting human health, biology diversity, and the environment from potentials risks associated with genetically modified organisms.
  • Ensure that Nigeria will have the opportunity to harness the potentials modern technology has to offer in the field of improved food production, medicine/health, Industrial growth and environmental sustainability, generation of Employment and wealth creation through the Modern Biotechnology industry.
  • Bring about responsible Research and Development in Modern Biotechnology,
  • Ensure that Nigeria will be able to guarantee the purity of its agricultural products for the international market, there by gaining international partners and also foreign earning.
  • Ensure that Nigeria will not serve as a dumping ground for unregulated Genetically Modified Organisms which may have impact on the environment and human health

Biosafety Regulation in Africa

The issue of Biosafety Regulation in Africa is rapidly gaining momentum as more African Countries are embracing GMOs. Republic of South Africa, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Egypt already have biosafety laws and are currently growing and consuming GM crops. Kenya, Togo, Tanzania and Mali also have Biosafety laws.

The African Union has developed a model biosafety law to assist Member States develop their Biosafety Laws. However, to further strengthen Biosafety system in Africa, the AU-NEPAD-African Biosafety Network of Expertise project has been put in place to develop the capacity of member states in biotechnology and Biosafety. The ECOWAS Commission is also, currently developing a common Biosafety Regulation in line with National Biosafety laws/Regulations for the Sub-region.   

Immediate Benefits to Nigeria

Nigeria can without delay commercialize Bt-cotton, Bt-maize, Herbicide Tolerant (HT)-soya beans, which are already in South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt. This can lead to increased yield productivity to ensure food security and industrial growth especially in the ailing Textile Industries. It will also promote the quantity and quality of cotton that the Nigeria can export to other international countries.

The passage of this law will also ensure the much desired in-flux of foreign direct investment from notable world leading companies in Biotechnology thereby improving gross domestic product growth rate and increase job creation.

The Law will promote national security through the application of DNA finger printing for crime detection, paternity testing, identification etc.

It will also promote active commercialization of the research and development projects in our various Universities and Research Institutes hence improves our economy as well as support the country to become one of the leaders in Biotechnology, particularly in Africa.

At this juncture I would like to thank and appreciate very greatly, the National Assembly Members for the timely passage of the Bill and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for his quick assent.  I have not also forgotten our strength and pillars of support, the Hon Ministers of Science and Technology, Agriculture and Rural Development, Environment: Dr Abdu Bulama, Dr Akinwumi Adesina and Mrs L.L. Malam respectively). We would ever remain grateful to you for this great and historical milestone achieved.

Also on record, are our abled, tenacious and committed stakeholders: the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AATF; the Africa Harvest Technology Foundation International (AHBFI), Kenya; the United States Agency for International Department, USAID, the United States Department for Agriculture, USDA, the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS); the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Abuja; the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Abuja; the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria; the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv), Abuja; the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike; the National Agricultural Seed Council of Nigeria (NASCN), Abuja; the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi; the  International Service for the Acquisition of Agri- Biotech Applications (ISAAA); the Michigan State University (MSU); the African Biosafety Network of Expertise, AU-NEPAD ABNE; All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), Cotton Ginnery Association of Nigeria (CGAN); the Niger State Government; the Gombe State Government; the Imo State Government; the Katsina State Government; Universities; the Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (BSN); the Genetic Society of Nigeria (GSN); the Nigerian Society of Microbiologists (NSM);  the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST); Nigerian Institute for Oil Research (NIFOR), Benin;  the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria(CRIN), Ibadan who guided us all the way through,  in driving this process to its logical conclusion. You stood strongly behind and beside us even when things became tough and hopeless, when there seemed to ne no way, you never gave up. Keeping hope alive is what has brought us this success. God will surely take us to the promised land!

Mrs Rose M. Gidado
Assistant Director, National Biotechnology development Agency/OFAB Nigeria Chapter Coordinator