Nigeria yet again takes strides in regulating GM sector, adopts stacked genes regulations

NIGERIA – Nigeria has adopted national guidelines on the regulation of genetically modified plants with a combination of two or more genes of interest in the genome of a single plant (stacked genes).

The objective of these guidelines is to provide guidance and information on the risk assessment and risk management requirements and procedures for plants with Genetically Modified (GM) stacked events through traditional breeding or molecular techniques. 

Dr. Rufus Ebegba, Director General and CEO of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), claims that the recently adopted document will direct the NBMA in the evaluation of biosafety applications for genetically modified crops with multiple genes in order to guarantee that the end products of this technology are secure for use in food and the environment.

According to him, the rules must guarantee that the genes introduced into these GM products give the anticipated benefits without posing a higher risk than their conventional counterparts.

Mr. Samuel Timpo, Principal Programme Officer of AUDA-NEPAD, praised Nigeria and the NBMA for continuously creating regulatory tools that are in line with international standards and best practices on behalf of AUDA-NEPAD, a partner of the NBMA in establishing effective biosafety regulatory tools.

He also lauded the NBMA for its inclusive, comprehensive process that produced a result that was appropriate for its intended use.

Additionally, he reaffirmed AUDA-NEPAD’s dedication to maintaining a successful working relationship with the NBMA, governmental organizations, and other stakeholders.

The guidelines were adopted during a deliberation meeting that brought together officials of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), and National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA).

Others are Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD), Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), University of Abuja, Federal Competition, Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) amongst others.

In February, Nigeria’s NBMA launched the country’s national guidelines on gene editing, a move that was noted as a ‘laudable game-changer’ for bio-safety activities in Nigeria.

Nigeria made history in biotech innovation with the commercialization of sub-Saharan Africa’s first genetically modified (GM) food crop — insect-resistant cowpea and TELA maize in 2021. 

It also kicked off the environmental release process of an improved GM rice, high-yielding nitrogen-efficient, water-efficient, salt-tolerant (NEWEST).

Just a month after Nigeria published regulations for genome editing in the country, Kenya also made a bold step towards regulating the sector, becoming the second African country to do so.

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