In 2015, HOMEF conducted a review of the National Biosafety Management Agency Act, 2015 through consultations with various stakeholders and experts who critically examined the issues of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria and the Act itself.
This review (https://homef.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/national-biosafety-act-homef-review.pdf) identified gaps in the Act which prevents it from protecting the interests of the people and safeguarding our health and environment.
Some of the gaps in the Act are in the areas of risk assessments and management; access to information; public consultation and participation; liability and redress; labelling and the right to know; decision‐making and appeals and reviews. Enormous amounts of discretionary powers (including absolute decision making power) have been vested on the National Biosafety Management Agency without enough mandatory duties in the operational provisions to ensure that the Agency will perform a stewardship role to ensure that GMOs do not pose harm to human and animal health, society and the environment. The composition of the Governing Board of the agency is arbitrary and constitutes conflict of interest. For example, the National
Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) which is the major promoter of the technology sits on that board, yet there is no sufficient representation of civil society and no representative of farmers and consumers. NABDA should not be on the board since it is their conduct, their technology and products that the law aims to regulate.
In 2019, an amendment of the NBMA Act, 2015 to include evolving aspects of biotechnology such as gene drives, gene editing and synthetic biology was approved by the president.
Based on the findings of the previous review and in response to the inclusion of the new definitions on emerging aspects of biotechnology, HOMEF has drafted this bill for an amendment of the NBMA Amendment Act, 2019. HOMEF believes that enlarging the scope of the NBMA Act to include these emerging technologies is a tremendously dangerous move which would compound the risks already posed by the basic application of the first-generation technology.
We have further reviewed the Amended Act and the amendment we propose highlights the importance of conducting independent risk assessments on every application and also for the public to be able to access results of such assessments.
Also our amendment seeks to include strict provisions for a precautionary approach to the issues of GMOs and biosafety in Nigeria; clear and mandatory provisions on access to information; public consultation and participation; strict liability and redress; labelling and the right to know; decision-making, appeals and reviews and to resolve conﬂict of interest and absolute powers of the Agency. Also to prevent threats of irreversible damage and ensure that lack of full scientiﬁc evidence should not be used as a reason not to take action to prevent such damage.
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