The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has begun drafting of guidelines for the proper regulation of genome editing in Nigeria.
Dr. Rufus Ebegba, the Director General, NBMA disclosed this in a statement issued by Gloria Ogbaki, Head, Press Unit of the agency, while speaking at the guideline drafting workshop in Abuja on Thursday.
Ebegba said that there was the need to have proper guidelines for regulation of genome editing “which is an emerging aspect of modern biotechnology’’.
He said that the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari saw the need to regulate this emerging sector that had demonstrated strong potential to transform the country’s economy.
“The amendment of the NBMA Act, 2015 includes Synthetic Biology, Gene Editing, Gene Drive and Biosecurity and this is aimed at expanding the scope of the agency’s mandate to regulate emerging technologies.
“The expansion of the scope of responsibility of the agency by the Federal Government is an indication of government’s firm resolve to ensure that any unintended effect that could result from the technology is nipped in the bud.’’
Ebegba said that the process of development of policies around emerging technologies was one that required an understanding of the benefits, potential risks and socio-economic impacts of such technologies.
Dr. Moussa Savadogo, the Principal Programme Officer for Environmental Biosafety and Coordinator of AUDA-NEPAD Office in Burkina Faso, lauded the Nigerian Biosafety system as the best in Africa.
Savadogo said that Nigeria was leading the continent in modern biotechnology regulation as the inclusion of gene drive and genome editing into the Biosafety Act was a good decision by the government.
“Science, technology and innovation are at the forefront of development and Nigeria’s decision to include emerging technologies in its Biosafety Act speaks of the country’s commitment to improve the economy and remain the giant of Africa,” Savadogo said.
Mr Sam Timpo, Senior Programme Officer with the Agency African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) under NEPAD, highlighted the need for the genome editing workshop as agreed by all African Union member States.
Timpo said the regulation of modern biotechnology in Africa had great potential to help farmers overcome the many challenges being faced with their crops resulting from diseases and pests.
He said that the workshop would help participants understand guidelines of genome editing in other countries.
Legal Adviser of the NBMA, Mrs Nkeiruka Aja in her presentation titled: “Key Provisions of the NBMA Act Including Recent Amendments to the Act 2015”, said the laws regulating Genetically Modified Organisms were strict.
Aja called for the need for individuals or institutions to seek permit before importing or exporting GMOs to avoid facing the wrath of the law.
Mrs Bello Scholastica, the Head, Planning Research and Statistics in her presentation titled: “Nigeria’s Contribution to Global Negotiations on Biosafety Regulations”, highlighted Nigeria’s gallant contribution to the past COP-MOP and the emergence of the NBMA DG/CEO as the chairman of the African Union Biosafety Regulators’ Forum.
The three-day workshop began on Oct. 8 and it involves training staff of the agency to strengthen their capacity on genome editing regulation and a draft guideline on genome editing is expected at the end of the workshop.(NAN)