The Nigerian National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has accredited five institutes to carry out modern biotechnology activities in the country.
This was disclosed by the agency’s director-general, Mr Rufus Ebegba, during a press briefing on the state of biosafety in Nigeria.
The institutes are National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike; Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria; Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA); National Cereals Research Institute Badeggi and National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Abuja.
Giving update on various crops’ approved confined field trials in Nigeria, Ebegba said the NRCRI had concluded field trials on bio-fortified cassava enhanced with pro-vitamin A and bio-fortified cassava enhanced with iron respectively, while field trial on the genetically modified cassava resistant to cassava mosaic virus and brown streak virus was still ongoing.
He explained that field trial on cowpea modified for resistance against Mauruca insect pest currently at the multi-locational level and the African biofortified sorghum, bioavailability of iron, zinc, protein and pro-vitamin A are still ongoing in IAR, adding the GM rice modified for nitrogen use efficiency and salt tolerance was still undergoing field trial at NCRI, Badeggi.
He listed the agency’s activities at various stages to include surveying, tracking and profiling of GMOs in Nigeria; enlightenment of the public on biosafety matters; consultation with sister regulatory agencies for partnership; development and reviewing of national biosafety regulations and guidelines and capacity building and training of staff of the agency.
The NBMA boss revealed the agency’s intention to commence full implementation and enforcement of the Biosafety Act, saying it would go tough on individuals, companies or institutions dealing in unapproved modern biotechnology activities in the country.
He said: “There are ample evidences that there are unapproved GMOs’ suspects in Nigeria. all those individuals, companies and institutions that are dealing in unapproved modern biotechnology activities and GMOs have been requested by the agency to formalise their dealings on or before December 31, 2015, as defaulters would be prosecuted as from January 2015.”
He also noted that any GMO farm that has up to 50 hectares would be required to establish five percent of the land with trees adaptable to the area, with a view of increasing Nigerian forest cover to render ecosystem services.