By Etta Michael Bisong
The Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Sir Rufus Ebegba, has discredited and urged Nigeria to disassociate from the campaign championed by most countries under the European Union (EU) against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and modern biotechnology practices.
The Agency’s helmsman dismissed the anti-GMOs campaigners on the premise and lack of scientific evidence to back up their claims.
Sir Ebegba, who gave the advice at a workshop on “Role of Media in Promoting Biosafety Regulations & Biotechnology Development in Nigeria” organised by Journalists for Social Development Initiative (JSDI) in Abuja, explained that genetically modification of organisms generally involves the manipulation of genes to achieve specific trait, and not synthetic or manufactured materials as portray by those that are not in suppose of the technology.
“Europe should not be used as a model,” he said. “We should adopt technologies that are safe for Africa and our nation.”
Although GMOs are widely grown in many parts of the world, the topic is fraught with contention in Europe due to public health and environmental concerns. Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France and Germany are among the EU countries that have “opted out” of growing GM crops within all or part of their territories. Others include Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
Aside the discrepancies against GM activities, well over 70 million Nigeria’s farmers are estimated of benefit from the potentials of modern biotechnology if properly deployed and regulated to foster socio-economic growth. Additionally, it’s also projected that the practice of modern biotechnology under the supervision of a vibrant regulatory regime has the capacity to generate over 25, 000 jobs annually across the country.
Nigeria been heterogeneous in composition and largely relies on the dwindling oil revenue for development must look into other alternative sources of generating income to compliment growth.
“If our conventional methods of doing things are failing us,” Sir Ebegba said, “we must move to advanced methods to facilitate our national development.”
The Director General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and guest speaker at the occasion, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu, hinted that biotechnology has been used for more than two decades without record of a single documented Safety concern.
“Nigeria cannot afford to be left out in the global Agricultural Biotechnology revolution,” she said.
The DG, in her paper titled – Bridging the Knowledge Divide: Role of Bioscience Communication, said the immense benefits derivable from modern biotechnology are globally acknowledged and they are as varied as the vast scope of the technology itself dating back to the first, second and third generation versions.
Prof. Ogbadu, while reiterating her Agency’s commitment and determination to promote the use of GMOs and biotechnology practices, pledged to work collectively to improve the communications environment, including the use of the latest as well as traditional communication strategies to ensure effectiveness.
“We are going to work inclusively, with all stakeholders, even those opposed to this technology, in an effort to build consensus and common understanding,” the NABDA boss asserted.
With well over 100 participants, the workshop attracted stakeholders from civil society organisations (CSOS), media, farmers, businessmen and women, as well as public and the private sector.