Ebegba proposes designated border for GM imports for proper monitoring
From: Babatunde Azeez, Abuja
The Director General of National Biosafety Management Agency Dr. Rufus Ebegba has said safe and quality seeds can only be made available to farmers through collaboration with relevant Agencies.
Ebegba disclosed this at the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) Institutional Biosafety Committee workshop held Thursday in Abuja.
It was themed: “Institutionalizing Biosafety Guidelines and Procedures for Production, Certification and Quality Control of GM Seeds”.
Thr biosafety management boss highlighted need for public consciousness about biosafety.
Ebegba explained that that the NASC has the mandate to regulate all new variety of seeds in the country be it Genetically Modified or not.
He said they are looking forward to a situation where some Genetically Modified seeds will be coming into the market, hence the need to train NASC officials to know how they can identify, handle and ensure safety of the seeds in the market.
He noted that after the NBMA has certified the GMOs safe, the NASC is expected to certify and approve, after due diligence on the quality of the seeds, to grant permit for the seeds that meet national standards.
Dr. Ebegba acknowledged the roles of the other agencies, such as Nigerian Custom Services and National Agricultural Quarantine Services who are saddled with the responsibility of securing the borders from infiltration of unsafe GMOs.
According to him: “Synergy is very critical in government, because this Ministries and Agencies have points of convergence; like the Nigerian Custom Services, they are the major border agency and we need to assist the agency to enforce a situation where by don‘t allow GMOs, particularly grains and other large consignment of GM production in to the country without our approval.
“The NASC has the mandate of all new verity of seeds in the country and we are now looking at a situation where some Genetically Modified seeds will be coming into the market so they need to be properly equipped to know how they can handle this seeds to ensure that the best quality of such seeds are what would be sold to the Nigerian farmers.”
“The take home from this meeting is the need for consciousness on matters of biosafety. After the NBMA has confirmed the seed safe NASC will also ensure the quality of the seeds and maintain to meet the quality national standards
“Biosafety permit is required before they are brought in, the Quarantine Services to, equally they also grant permits for GMOs to be brought into the country, they are in charge of phyto-sanitry aspect of the Organisms too, when GMOs are brought in they will need to alert the agency so that we will take over our responsibility so that biosafety is assuerd.
“When there are new verity of seeds are coming into the country, NASC will alert the agency that we have this new verity they must request the permit from such persons, so we are sure of the Safety of the seeds in the market.” He added.
He said the Biosafety agency will soon establish zonal offices across Nigeria to better assure the safety of GM seeds all over the country.
However, he said the agency is looking forward to the possibilities of having designated borders for the importation of GM products, both in small and large quantities for easier tracking and monitoring.
“The agency is also coming up with zonal offices and apart from that as I have said, we are also working with the Custom Services who polices the border, though it is very large with the Quarantine services so that they can notify the agencies for proper tracking.
“When anybody goes through another route to bring them in, we can get them and it means they are going against the law and there are consequences for bringing in GMOs without permits.” He noted.
Also speaking at the event was the Director General of NASC who said the collaboration was to rejuvenate the institutional biosafety committee which is an important committee and a link between the Seed Council and the National Biosafety.
According to him, the agency regulates the industry, and checking at the seed if it’s normal or conventional, as it is the mandate to regulate the sector, thereby ensuring that there’s a perfect linkage between the agency and the National Biosafety.
“In the area of phasing out adulterated seed from the system, the Nigerian farmers should expect that things will be properly done, as farmers will not be shortchanged knowing that their are agencies and institutions that are out to defend them, in the area of ensuring that the quality of seeds that will be rolled out is very good, as we work to ensure that adulterated seed is thrown out of the market.”
He stated further that, “With our collaboration farmers yield and productivity is expected to increase and it is also expected that the issue of seeds importation is addressed, thereby making Nigeria a net exporter of seeds, as we are currently producing 50-60 percent of seeds used in West Africa.
“We have continued the fight of eradicating adulterated seed from the county with limited funds, but with you and I, we hope to win the war against adulterated products from our society.” He noted.