NIGERIA – The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in Nigeria has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) on the regulation of animal biotechnology.

Speaking during the signing ceremony, Dr Rufus Egbeba, the Director-General NBMA, said that the MoU will strengthen the agency’s bid of regulating utilisation of Genetically Modified (GM) foods in the country.

Egbeba added that it would also give the agency and the ministry the opportunity to work in synergy to build partnerships and bridges for the enhancement of food security in the country.

He affirmed that the NBMA was well structured to meet national and global needs on safe use of modern biotechnology while stressing that “the agency has what it takes to ensure that the products of modern biotechnology are safe in our environment and to human health.”

Egbeba said that the agency, apart from ensuring the safety of GMOs, is also working to further the socio-economic benefits of modern biotechnology by developing better performing varieties.

Dr Mohammed Bello, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said the MoU marked the onset of the much-needed collaboration to ensure only approved animal GMOs were imported into the country.

Bello said that the ministry would make it a prerequisite to issue import permit for only GMOs of animals that had been certified safe by the agency.

He emphasised the need for the inter-agency collaboration saying the Federal Government is determined to diversifying the economy to non-oil revenue generating sectors in which agriculture is one of the key sectors.

He said there is urgent need for improvement of the output of agricultural commodities as this can be achieved with genetically modified organisms.

Dr. Olaniran Alabi, the Director, Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services of the ministry, had earlier said that modern biotechnology posed certain challenges despite the its benefits.

“These challenges are largely determined by how, when and where it finds application,” he said.

Alabi described the collaboration as important to ensure that the use of the application of genetically modified animal and animal products was properly regulated.

Early this year, the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) in Nigeria unveiled a genetically modified ‘Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea’ aimed at improving productivity.