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Biosafety agency gives GMO importers 7-day ultimatum to obtain permit

By Asma’u Ahmad

The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has given a seven-day ultimatum to importers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) such as seeds, grains and foods to obtain import permit or be sanctioned.

The Director-General of the agency, Dr Rufus Ebegba, gave the ultimatum at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday.“This press conference is to sound a note of serious warning to importers of GM grains, seeds and foods against unauthorised importation and release of GM foods and products into the country. “The agency has observed with serious dismay the attempt by some of the importers not to follow the due process concerning the issue of biosafety permit.

Dr Rufus Ebegba

“Some of them have decided to circumvent the necessary biosafety procedures for them to bring in GMOs. “I want to make it categorically clear that there are serious consequences for any importer of GM seeds or grains into this country without biosafety permit. “The agency will not hesitate to close down any company or arrest any importer that deals on GM seed and grains without biosafety permit. “There must be a biosafety permit and risk assessment must be carried out on such products before allowing the release into the environment,” he warned.

Ebegba said that the agency had noticed recently that quite a number of grains suspected to be genetically modified were being imported into the country. He said the agency relied heavily on sister agencies and partners to checkmate illegal importation of such grains through the borders. “We also consider it very important for the NBMA to be at the border because of these recent developments,’’ he said.

He directed that those involved in, or intending to be involved in the handling, importation or transfer of GMOs, should seek clarification and authorisation from the agency before doing so. He said seeking such clarification and authorisation was in line with the National Biosafety Maintenance Agency Act 2015. “The NBMA is by this act empowered to sanction any erring party for importing or releasing unauthorised genetically modified products, be it grains or any kind of seed, as the case may be,” he said.

Ebegba said that the safety of Nigerians was the priority of the agency and urged the people to see the agency as a dependable body that could protect their interest.

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