By Etta Michael Bisong
The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has called for the rapid development and use of biotechnology particularly in agriculture as alternative source to diversify the economy and generate revenue for national growth.
Sir Rufus Ebegba, director-general and chief executive officer of the agency who made the call during a capacity workshop held in Abuja, hinted that biotechnology if properly deployed has the potentials to turn-around Nigeria’s over reliance on oil for revenue and foster her aspiration of economic diversification.
The NBMA briefly after its establishment issued a moratorium for six months which expired December 2015 to all operators involved in GM practices to formalise their dealings with the agency for proper regulation or face punishment as stipulated by the law.
The DG/CEO disclosed that the similarities in both GM and non-GM products have made training and retraining of workers inevitable to enable them meet current challenges of GM detection and analysis so as to effectively carry out the agency’s mandate.
So, the workshop according to him is a conscious and positive attempt to empower staffs with the required knowledge to detect and analyse all forms of genetically modified organisms before their release for consumption across the country. The agency has also collaborated with relevant security operatives such as the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to efficiently implement her enforcement responsibility.
“This training is very important to the life and responsibilities bestowed on the agency,” Sir Ebegba said. “It will strengthen staffs in the application of the knowledge they have acquired over the years to meet the current dynamics of biosafety.”
The NBMA boss emphasised the need to consider biotechnology as crucial tool especially in food and raw material production for industries since the present administration pride its national economic development goals around agriculture.
He said there is need for partnership between media, research institutes, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) as well as other relevant stakeholders in the sector to successfully realise this goal.
“The era of research for paperwork and academic accolade is over,” he said. “Products must be delivered for the development of our country.”
He assured that the NBMA under his reign will continue to work with related sister agencies and institutions to ensure the necessary adequate environment to realise the nation’s economic agenda and entrench global best standards in the enforcement of biosafety regulations.
Professor Oyekanmi Nash, director of Genomics & Bioinformatics under NABDA and lead facilitator at the event referred to the exercise as fundamental requirement for the proper enforcement of biosafety regulation in the country.
Prof. Nash while analysing the origin of life revealed that gene manipulation is a phenomenon that is driven by natural processes which must be understood to enhance the proper application of science.
He debunked all the allegations raised against the safety of GMOs and attributed most of such claims to political cum economic reasons rather than science which is the base for gene analysis.
According to him, the general public apprehension about the safety of GMOs is “because it is not God, but man made.”
“God said we should improve on what He has done,” Prof. Nash said. “And to improve on that you must first understand the mind of God”.