Nigeria is first country in Africa to develop regulatory Guidelines for Gene editing, head of the country’s Biotechnology agency, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha.
This is as some scientists in the country are being trained to communicate and manage genome editing in order to douse the body of opposition to emerging technologies in agriculture like Genetic Modification.
Speaking at the training session held for Nigerian scientists on Genome Editing in Agriculture hosted by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) at Ibadan, Prof Mustapha said, “I am glad to inform you that a set of regulatory guidelines for Gene editing in Nigeria has been drafted, reviewed and validate by the national Biosafety Management Agency ready for use.”
According to Prof. Mustapha, Genome editing in agriculture will help Nigeria and Africa as a whole with a great opportunity to revive the agricultural sector by producing quality products that will in turn feed the industries and factories that once employed thousands of Nigerians.
“The African Union High Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) has already identified advances in gene technology as key to fast-tracking Africa’s development and transformation process. Given the precision, affordability and potential offered for quick win, Nigeria and Africa at large, stands to benefit most,” he said.
He however said that the country’s chance to benefit from these technologies lies heavily on her ability to efficiently regulate and communicate its potentials and risks, stressing that it was the real reason behind the training for the scientists.
“You are all here to receive the training on how best to efficiently communicate this technology leveraging on the success stories of other countries like the US, Brazil, Argentina, Canada etc. The best way to go about it of course, is to mainstream Genome editing into policies of African government for better understanding and faster adoption,” Prof Mustapha said.
Speaking directly to the scientists, he said, “Your selection to be part of this elitist group of scientists to benefit from this training is not an error but based on your ability to properly deploy your acquired knowledge in contributing to Nigeria’s quest to improve its agricultural productivity for enhanced food security.
“I challenge you as scientists to come out of this week training well- equipped to not only confront the activists but to become champions and spokesperson for the technology. The world is changing, science is also evolving, and we can’t remain static because a few chose to be mischievous because of their personal gains over the plight of our poor farmers.”
The Deployment of Genetic Modification in the country is facing a lot of hurdles, which the NABDA Director General says were not scientific in nature. He said this was because the opportunity to properly equip Nigerian scientists at the beginning were not available, leaving very few scientists to speak for the technology across Nigeria. He, however, said the story is about to change.
“I want to say here that starting this training in Africa with Nigeria is the right stem in the right direction, Nigeria being the giant of Africa, “If Nigeria sneezes, the whole Africa catches cold, so if Nigeria gets it right, Africa gets it right,” he said.