Nigeria officially signed the Biosafety Bill into law in 2015, making it eligible to join the league of nations already using genetic engineering (GE) to boost food production.
However, there are talks around it been modified and several lawyers are kicking against the idea of having it at all. The lawyers also advised experts and advocates against the implementation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country on the various legal options available to challenge such implementations.
Nigeria is a third world African country with an area of 98.3million ha of which 74million ha is suitable for farming. Farming is generally the production, processing and management of crops, livestock and fish used to nourish the population to health, growth and development. The population involved in farming is around 60 to 70% (Food Agricultural Organization, FAO, 2005). Smallholder farmers constitute 80% of all farm holdings.
African communities are currently under growing pressure to accept GMOs (GM seeds). The recent New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition launched by United States of America, an alliance of agribusiness giants including Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, DuPont and Yara are investing over $3 billion into bio-opportunities in Africa (Anderson, 2012).
These investments are in genetically modified agro- seeds and local foods, vaccines and drugs and modified organisms for bioremediation, sectors that are supposed to move the local population from a life of deprivation and poverty to a life of Health and economic prosperity (Falkner, 2000).
But GMO promoters would often wave such concerns, insisting the technology is scientific and research-based with years of rigorous safety procedures before commercialization.
Despite calls for disapproval from the anti-GMO groups, Nigeria in 2019 amended the biosafety law by expanding the scope of the NBMA Act to include evolving aspects of biotechnology such as ‘gene drives, gene editing, and synthetic biology.’
During the roundtable, the lawyers agreed any perceived threats posed by GMOs should be continuously challenged through litigations, with concerned experts in biosafety and lawyers working side by side.
Ifeanyi Nwankwere, who (with a team of experts) is currently handling the court case against the approval for introduction of GM cotton and maize into Nigeria, attributed the challenges of biosafety in the country to certain clauses in the biosafety law.