The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has warned members of the public to be wary of genetically-modified products that are on offer in some stores. It said none of the products has yet been approved for local and commercial consumption.
The agency said that it had started working with some major stores to withdraw the items from the Nigerian market.
Executive Director of the agency, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, who spoke with The Guardian at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, said NBMA remained the only regulatory agency for such products and had till date not approved any for commercial use.
Ebegba said though the clean-up was not because the GMO foods were bad but that the law says all of such products coming in must be approved by the NBMA.
He said: “As part of building public confidence in the technology and the product, we decided to carry out some survey because we are aware that some people without being aware of what they are selling, are selling some products grouped as genetically modified foods.
So, we are closely working with those super-stores and the public needs not to panic about the issue.
“It is part of our operational means of ensuring that Nigerians are given the best and they do not consume what they do not know. We want to ensure that what we consume in this country are only what are safe. Nigerians should be assured that the NBMA would ensure that the technology is properly used and the products are not harmful in human consumption.”
Ebegba, who stated that the only GMO products approved (maize and cotton) are for on-farm demonstration, adding that there is no commercial genetically-modified food yet approved in this country.
He said the compliance rate to their directive was high, with stores already coming forward to seek assistance in identifying products that are GMO-related.
On how the products crept into the market unapproved, Ebegba said: “The guiding law didn’t exist before now.
“In the absence of a law, there is no offence committed. There is still a lot of ignorance and we are working on that.
“Before now, only NAFDAC has the authority to approve foods, either GMO or not. But the law establishing the NBMA has a clause that said the agency will work closely with NAFDAC to certify GMO foods. If NAFDAC has approved them in the past on the ground that they are declared safe from where they are coming, we want to be double-sure.”