Biosafety experts express grave concern over proposed merging of NABDA and NACGRAB

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The proposed National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency (NBRDA) has environmental groups and other concerned citizens worried about the consequences of combining NABDA with NACGRAB.

Because it endangers Nigeria’s biosafety, they demanded that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) reconsider its merger plans.

You may remember that the FEC chose to implement the suggestions made by the Steve Oronsaye panel about the rationalization and restructuring of federal agencies, parastatals, and commissions in order to increase efficiency in the federal civil service and decrease the cost of government. Agencies performing comparable functions will be merged, subsumed, or eliminated as part of the implementation.

According to a statement released on Thursday by Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, the executive director of HOMEF, the Health Of Mother Earth Foundation, it is necessary to critically examine the current mandate of merging all federal agencies, parastatals, and commissions in order to guarantee sufficient institutional support, including funding allocations and specific plans for implementation, even though the FEC’s proposal to reorganize and streamline federal government agencies is a positive step in the right direction.

When asked about the merging of NABDA and NACGRAB, Bassey clarified that the two agencies’ roles are distinct and that NABDA was formed in 2001 under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to carry out the policy of Nigeria on biotechnology research, promotion, coordination, and development.

He elaborated by saying that the same ministry had founded NACGRAB in 1987 with the mission of creating a genebank in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria, to store and protect important agricultural and food-related genetic resources and to guarantee their sustainable use.

There is an obvious contradiction of mandates between NABDA and NACGRAB, as Bassey pointed out, because the former has a strong and unique function to control the seed, cattle, and fisheries businesses.

The National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties, Livestock Breed, and Fisheries is also overseen by the NACGRAB. So, how would the proposed NBRDA, for instance, authorize the commercial release of genetically modified crop varieties and guarantee their development? He asked.

Joyce Brown, director of programs at HOMEF, pointed out that while both organizations are obligated to conduct research, the emphasis of that study differs.

In order to mitigate potential risks to human and environmental health, Brown proposed that NACGRAB and the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) work together rather than merge. Both organizations share a regulatory role in the field of modern biotechnology and would be better suited to oversee the production, storage, and use of genetically modified organisms.

Better yet, the NBMA can join the NACGRAB as a unit, guaranteeing institutional backing and supervision as it works to fix the present biosafety regulatory system’s flaws, she said.

“On the other hand, the NACGRAB needs to clarify its mandate. It’s ironic that the same organization that claims to be dedicated to protecting the nation’s genetic resources is also responsible for approving the release of GM varieties that pose a threat to this mandate.”

The planned merger is fraught with controversy, according to Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, a food sovereignty activist and Deputy Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria. If approved, the merger would effectively abolish genetic modification regulation in Nigeria, which “will be a recipe for disaster.”

Orovwuje has recently urged the government to think about implementing an agroecology strategy in order to combat food shortages, boost local economies, and adapt to climate change.

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