Deployment of Modern Biotechnology is Critical to Economic Growth and Development- Salako

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Deployment of modern biotechnology is critical to the growth and development of Nigeria’s economy. This was stated by the Minister of State for Environment, Dr. Iziaq Adekunle Salako, at the stakeholders meeting on Biosafety and Biotechnology which was held on April 30, 2024 at the Abuja Continental Hotel. He said the Federal Ministry of Environment was deeply committed to the vision of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR to “remodel the Nigerian economy to bring about growth and development through job creation, food security and end extreme poverty”. He noted that deployment of modern biotechnology was central to achieving Tinubu’s vision and they were determined to ensure that their biotechnology solutions are well grounded in scientific evidences, ethical deployment, safe application and freedom of choice.

He said, “Biotechnology without any doubt has provided revolutionary breakthroughs in environmental science and agriculture helping us to reduce use of pesticides, protect biodiversity, reduce erosion and green house gas emission, increase tolerance to drought, flood and improving nutrition. Biotechnology remains an important tool to our quest to adapt to the challenges of climate change. In healthcare, it has redefine our approach to disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment thus helping patient outcomes and beaming positivity around diseases previously considered incurable.”

On the widely held concerns around biotech products especially in the agriculture sector where there is a wide division on the risks to human health by food products derived from genetically modified crops. Salako assured that the safety of the environment, the integrity of the ecosystems, the well-being of the people as well as the national interest remain the cornerstone of the regulatory endeavors in the Federal Ministry of Environment through the National Biosafety Management Agency.

“Biotechnology to us is therefore not just a policy or a set of regulations it is a commitment to the conscientious stewardship of life itself grounded on facts and figures and not sentiments or commercial drive. It is about ensuring that as we harness the potentials of genetic engineering and other biotechnological products such as GMOs, we do so with the utmost respect for nature’s balance, diversity and safety. Our commitment is to ensure that whatever advancements we make, must not come at the cost of our planet’s health, the health of the people and our moral compass.

“The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), under the Federal Ministry of Environment, is the cornerstone of our efforts to regulate modern biotechnology activities in Nigeria. It is based on three key pillars which are risk assessment and management, regulatory fidelity and public engagement”, the Minister noted.

He said since its establishment in 2015, the NBMA has been diligent in its mission to safeguard human health and the environment from the potential adverse effects of modern biotechnology and its products. This is in line with international standards, including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to which Nigeria is a signatory. He added that the agency was conceived and delivered in response to the demand of stakeholders in the field of biotechnology and to ensure that Nigeria maintains the international standard. he assured that the NBMA as a regulator would continue to stay above board and prioritize safety of the people at all times. He called on the stakeholders to support the regulatory functions of the NBMA through collaboration, information sharing and expert opinions.

“We must avoid sensationalism, half truths, scare mongering and interprofessional conflict induced antagonism. Let us promote informed dialogue on the deployment of biotechnology based on scientific evidence. The Federal Ministry of Environment will continue to ensure that all factors are taken on-board and all stakeholders are given a voice for the biosafety of Nigerians. Let me therefore use this opportunity to invite all those who are skeptical about biotechnology to come forward and give us the evidences of their skepticism”, Salako added.

He urged Nigerians to have confidence in the Nigeria Biosafety Management Agency and its commitment to ensure proper regulation of modern biotechnology and providing biosecurity at all times. He said NBMA approvals are guided by strict protocols in collaboration with several other government agencies, research institutions and the academia..

” The state of biosafety in Nigeria remains very strong and is serving as an example to several other African countries. let me reaffirm the commitment of the Federal Ministry of Environment to the Nigerian biosafety system. Biotechnology is science and its products like GMOs have important role to play in ensuring food security, creating jobs, reducing poverty and generally improving the standard of living of Nigerians which are key elements in ths 8 point agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Together, we will ensure that biosafety remains a force for good, contributing to food security, climate resilience, better healthcare and economic stability of our beloved country”, the Minister concluded.

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