By Prof. Lucy Jumeyi Ogbadu, Director-General/CEO, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Abuja
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)”.
The Benefits of Modern Biotechnology include, among others, the following:
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:
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