The Federal Government has threatened to shut down all Genetically Modified Confined Field Trial sites that are not complying with the terms and conditions binding the modification trials.
Rufus Ebegba, the Director General of the National Biosafety Management Agency, said this while inspecting the site for the new GM rice at the National Cereals Research Institute, Badeggi, Niger State.
Ebegba said, on Thursday, that the move was in line with the mandatory function of the agency to ensure total compliance with the conditions of biosafety, safe environment and health.
He reiterated the readiness of the agency to ensure total and holistic biosafety in the application of modern biotechnology in the country.
Ebegba said: “This visit is part of the mandatory function of the National Biosafety Management Agency to ensure total compliance.
“The permit given to the National Research Institute is very clear to test for the efficacy of the modification that has taken place in rice meets nitrogen use efficiency, water use efficiency and salt tolerance.
“We are here for compliance enforcement. If there is a breach without sounding a note of threat, the CFT will be closed down.
“What we are doing is in the interest of Nigerians and Nigeria as a nation.”
Dr. Samuel Agboire, the Executive Director of the research institute, said they were doing everything possible to meet the required terms for the rice modification.
Agboire assured members of the public that the institute was capable of conducting the trials without jeopardising the environment and health.
Rose Gidado, the Country Representative of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology, said the rice modification and trial would be over in 2019.
Gidado, also an Assistant Director with the National Biotechnology Development Agency, described controversies on GMOs as ‘war of words’.
She said that no research had proven that GMOs had adverse effects on human health and the environment.
The country representative listed some agricultural produce currently under confined field trials in the country to include bio-fortified sorghum and Biotechnology Cowpea.
There are the new rice, bio-cassava plus for nutritional enhancement and the BT cotton, currently for on-station trial approved for commercial use.
Ishaku Mohammed, a director in the institute and a rice variety developer, said the first phase of the rice modification, which commenced in January, failed as a result of inadequate moisture for the crop.
Mohammed said the institute had put in place necessary measures to ensure that the second phase of the rice modification would have adequate moisture and yield desired results.
Mohammed said: “In managing GMOs safety compliance, you have to carry out all environmental measures.
“Unfortunately, the heat we had this year was too much. The crop was not having enough moisture; it gave problem to the development of the crop.”
He said the second phase of the trial would commence within the next week.
The Principal Investigator of the rice project, Bashir Mohammed, said the modification was to discourage farmers from using local varieties and encourage improved varieties of rice.
Mohammed said the gene of the GM rice which had high nitrogen (fertiliser) efficiency, would be retrogressed into the farmers preferred variety to improve yields.
According to him, using GM seeds are economical, cost effective, reduce the application of herbicides and reduce leaching of dangerous substances to the environment.
Bashir Mohammed said: “This will help to reduce the fertiliser rate used by farmers to cultivate and avoid contamination to the environment by the fertiliser.”
The Eagle online News reports that another GM rice seedling was handed over to the institute by the NBMA to commence the second phase of the trial.