By Abdallah el-Kurebe
Nigeria has finally joined the league of biotechnology countries with the signing the National Biosafety Agency Bill into law by President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday.
The Law seeks to domesticate modern biotechnology used by advanced countries as cutting-edge technology to boost economic development.
A statement signed by the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Lucy Jumeyi Ogbadu stated that the Act would “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.”
According to the statement, “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.
“The Biosafety Act will provide the legal framework to check the activities of modern biotechnology locally as well as imported genetically modified crops into the country, including the provision of avenue to engage Nigerian scientists/experts from different fields to identify and pursue solutions to our local challenges.”
It could be recalled that during Netmapping Workshop organized by Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology at Maizube Farms in Minna, Niger State, former Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar observed that “Agricultural Biotechnology has changed the lives of the rural cotton farmers in Burkina Faso. It has also changed the lives for the better of poor farmers in Brazil and Argentina.”
While recognizing the complex issues to be addressed by Central Authorities in the judicious application of Modern Biotechnology, “the Biosafety Law also bases the deliberate release of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) on Advance Informed Agreement (AIA).”
The signed Law addresses the following:
i. Defines offenses and penalty for violation of the act; ii. contains powers to authorize release of GMOs and practice of modern biotechnology activities; iii. confers the power to carry out risk assessment/management before the release, handling and use of GMOs; iv. covers all genetically modified organisms/Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) and products thereof including food/feed and processing and
v. covers socioeconomic consideration in risk assessment.
What Nigeria stands to benefit from Modern Biotechnology among others include the following: a. capacity for improved food security; b. 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
Others are: c. improvement in plants and animals yields as well as nutritional values; d. production of new breeds/varieties of animals and plants and e. reduction in the use of pesticides.
Also, f. reduction in farming land area with higher yields, facilitates Job and wealth creation, leads to better health facilities; g. promotion of bioorganic fertilizer development and industrial growth through feed-stock development; h. promotion and development of biopharmaceuticals production, Stem Cell technology, biometrics, etc in Nigeria and i. biodiversity conservation.
One thing the law will provide is an accelerated agricultural development for an African giant.