Nigerian Legislators back country’s biosafety agency efforts in regulating GMOs

NIGERIA – Nigerian legislators have backed the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in its efforts towards regulating modern biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country.

Chairman House Committee on Environment and Habitat, Obinna Chidoka, hailed the NBMA saying that it is acting in accordance with the law and pledged support from the National Assembly in its mandate, reports Crop Biotech Update.

He commended the Agency for adopting modern biotechnology and being a regional leader in facilitating a strong biosafety system.

Additionally, Aishatu Dukku, a member of the Committee, lauded the Agency for granting approval for commercial release of pod borer-resistant (PBR) Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cowpea in the country.

NBMA Director General Dr. Rufus Ebegba lauded the Committee’s effort in ensuring a holistic biosafety framework by proposing an amendment to the National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015 to include emerging technologies.

“We have a great responsibility in an ever-expanding sector and we must fine-tune the law to regulate emerging technologies in the biotechnology sector,”Rufus said.

According to a Crop Biotech report, the bill seeks will expand the scope of the Act to include emerging aspects of biotechnology such as such as gene drives, gene editing, and synthetic biology.

The proposed bill seeks to expand the scope of the Act to include evolving aspects of biotechnology such as gene drives, gene editing, and synthetic biology.

Emerging breeding technologies and food security

According to scientific researchers the new and emerging plant breeding technologies such has gene editing have been viewed as a possible intervention to significantly contribute to food security and sustainable development.

This is especially in the wake of serious environmental problems that have resulted due to prolonged use of agrochemicals subsequently reducing the productivity of soils and hence implicating food security.

An article published in Science, an international team of researchers argues that new plant breeding technologies in addition to agricultural technologies poses a sustainable solution to this situation.

As a mitigation to the ongoing climate change globally, future technologies need to reduce the environmental footprint and make agriculture more resilient to climate stress with Africa and Asia predicted to suffer the most.

Genome editing can be used to make crop plants more resistant to pests and diseases and more tolerant to drought which can help to reduce crop losses and chemical pesticide sprays.

Similarly, Point mutations, without introducing foreign genes, can be adopted in previously neglected crops, such as pulses and local vegetables to enhance food security.

According to the Science article, international cooperation, public support, and efficient science-based regulation are some of the major initiatives that need to adopted to all actors in the value chain benefit.

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