In February 2009, Nigeria's Biosafety bill was introduced to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law. The bill has gone through its first and second readings and a public hearing will commence soon. The bill leans heavily on the precautionary approach and requires certification and mandatory labeling for imports of all products of biotechnology.
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Num NI9008 ber:
AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY ANNUAL
Ali Abdi, Agricultural Attaché
Michael A. David, Agricultural Specialist
In February 2009, Nigeria's Biosafety bill was introduced to the National Assembly for
consideration and passage into law. The bill has gone through its first and second readings and
a public hearing will commence soon. The bill leans heavily on the precautionary approach and
requires certification and mandatory labeling for imports of all products of biotechnology. This
could negatively impact the importation of products derived through agricultural
biotechnology. Post is collaborating with major stakeholders to ensure that these provisions are
modified before the bill is passed into law. The Nigeria Biosafety Committee has approved two
new applications for the field testing of transgenic cow pea and cassava varieties.
Section I. Executive Summary:
Nigeria, Africa?s most populous nation (146 million), is a food deficit country. Formally a net
food exporter, Nigeria?s subsistence agriculture can no longer supply the needs of its growing
population. According to trade sources, Nigeria imported about $3 billion worth of agricultural
commodities in 2008. Nigeria is largely a bulk commodity market and imports wheat, soybean
products, tallow, rice and high value products. In MY 2008/09, U.S. agricultural exports to
Nigeria surpassed $1 billion, primarily wheat. Nigeria was the second largest buyer of U.S.
wheat in the world in 2008/09.
Nigeria?s draft biosafety bill was finally presented to the National Assembly (Congress) as a
private bill for consideration and passage into law. Efforts to put in place a regulatory
framework for the practice of biotechnology have been in the works since the 1990s, with the
Federal Ministry of Environment providing the lead. Although the Government of Nigeria
(GON) signed and ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 1991 as a mark of interest in
the technology, very little was done to create the needed regulatory environment. The process
leading to the presentation of the bill has been extremely slow. The enactment of biosafety laws
in South Africa, Mali, Burkina Faso and Kenya bolstered Nigeria?s interest to move the process
Current status of the biosafety bill:
The Biosafety bill has gone through the first and second readings at the House of
It is been taken as a private bill to the Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture,
Honorable Makanjuola Gbenga Peter.
In May 2009, a study tour trip was organized by USAID Reforms Project to Philippines
GM crop farms for member of the House Committees on Agriculture, Environment and
Science and Technology. The goal of this trip was to have a practical experience on
GMOs and how they are being regulated as well as the legislation procedure. This trip
was very successful.
A public hearing of the bill will follow at a date will be fixed soon.
Major stakeholders in the country have urged Congress to expedite action on the bill in order for
the country to benefit from the technology. When passed into law, it will provide the necessary
regulatory framework for the practice of biotechnology. At the first reading of the bill held
recently, Hon. Gbenga Makanjuola, Chairman House Committee on Agriculture noted that ?the
potentials of biotechnology are immense, as it can enhance food security, wealth creation and
environmental sustainability?. He further said that "the vision of Nigeria's biosafety is to ensure
that the practice of modern biotechnology is undertaken within the scope of a regulatory system
that will guarantee its safe application, protect Nigeria's biodiversity and minimize or eliminate
its risk to human health and the environment, and that all hands must be on deck by relevant
stakeholders, by lending support to biosafety in this country."
The African Union has developed a biosafety model law as part of the overall efforts to
encourage member countries to adopt the technology. The Economic Community of West
African States is also developing common biosafety regulation/laws for the sub-region. Risk
assessment /management, proof of safety before approval and the equivalence of GMOs with
their conventional equivalent, cost and environmental impact are some of the issues that make
the common approach important.
Nigeria?s biosafety bill calls for the establishment the Biosafety Department under the National
Biodiversity Management Agency. The Department is expected to be the focal point and
authority on Biosafety in the country. The objectives of the Department are stated in the
biosafety bill as follows:
establish and strengthen the institutional arrangements on biosafety matters in Nigeria;
safeguard human health and the environment from any potential adverse effect of
genetically modified organism including food safety;
ensure safety in the use of modern biosafety and provide holistic approach to the
regulation of modified organisms to avoid risk based on the precautionary principle;
provide measures for the case-by-case assessment of genetically modified organisms and
management of risk in order to ensure safety in the use of genetically modified
organisms to human health and the environment;
provide measures for the effective public participation, public awareness, access to
information and consensus building in the use and application of modern biotechnology
and genetically modified organisms; and
Ensure that use of the genetically modified organisms does not have adverse impact on
socio-economic and cultural interest either at the community or national level.
However, the current draft bill contains some clauses that could negatively impact the
importation of products derived through agricultural biotechnology. Section 9 (functions of the
national biosafety committee) mandates the committee to assess and recommend approval of
applications submitted for the import/export, transfer, and transit of GMO products. In addition,
Part V (Notification and Authorization) clearly states that importation/exportation and
movement of GMO products requires prior approval from the biosafety agency (when
established) or the ministry of environment. Also, the bill requires mandatory labeling of
products derived through agricultural biotechnology.
In the meantime, National Biosafety Committee has approved two applications for field trials of
transgenic crops. The Institute for Agricultural Research, ABU Zaria received approval to
conduct a field trial of transgenic cow pea resistant to Maruca, while the National Root Crop
Research Institute Umudike has received approval to conduct contained field trials of biotech
cassava variety. The transgenic cassava (?Super Cassava?) which is fortified with vitamin A
was developed at the Danforth Center. The National Biosafety Guidelines adopted by the GON
made provision for field-testing bio-engineered crops.
Section II. Biotechnology Trade and Production:
A. Commercial Production of Biotechnology Crops
Nigeria does not currently produce any biotechnology crops commercially. A recent meeting
organized by the NABDA, recommended that Nigeria should commence the commercialization
of GM crops starting with crops with high industrial uses. With the commencement of
commercial production of biotech cotton in neighboring Burkina Faso, Nigerian farmers have
indicated strong interest in conducting field trials.
B. Biotechnology Research Efforts
Capacity exists at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and to some extent
at the GON?s Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), to conduct and apply
biotechnology research. Sustained research using modern agricultural biotechnology methods in
Nigeria is being conducted at the IITA. The institute is doing preliminary work on bio-
engineered cowpea. IITA also collaborates with the National Root Crops Research Institute
(NRCRI) on biotech cassava research.
C. Biotechnology Crops under Development
There is no biotechnology crop under development in Nigeria that will be on the market in the
D. Imports of Biotechnology Crops/Products
Agricultural products such as soybeans, soybean meal, soybean oil and processed food are freely
imported from the U.S., EU, Brazil and Argentina and may contain biotech ingredients. Corn
was imported from the U.S. until an import ban implemented in 2005 to protect local producers.
This ban has recently been overturned and corn is again expected to be imported into Nigeria.
E. Food Aid
Nigeria has been a food aid recipient, with rice, soybean meal and skim milk powder having
been monetized under USDA food aid programs in the past few years. No issues have arisen as a
result of biotechnology and food aid. Nigeria is no longer a recipient of USDA food aid
F. Production of Biotechnology Crops Developed Outside the United States
At present, Nigeria does not produce biotechnology crops.
Section III. New Technologies:
There are no new technologies in use in Nigeria that go beyond biotechnology such as: the
genetic engineering of agriculturally-relevant animals, animal cloning, plants that produce
Section IV. Biotechnology Policy:
A. Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology
I. Responsible institutions involved in agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria:
National Focal Point--Federal Ministry of Environment
National Biosafety Authority (NBA) -Proposed
The National Biosafety Committee (NBC)
National Biosafety Technical Sub-Committee
Institutional Biosafety Committees
National Biotechnology Development Agency (NBDA)
The Federal Ministry of Environment is the national focal point on Biosafety in Nigeria. This
Ministry is the GON?s liaison with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Biodiversity
for administrative functions required under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The National
Focal point is responsible for all correspondences with importers, exporters and applicants on
movement of products of modern biotechnology. Pending the passage of the National Biosafety
Bill the Minister of Environment acts for the National Biosafety Agency (NBA).
The Ministry of Environment has developed a National Biosafety Framework (NBF) to provide
guidance on the implementation of Nigeria?s Biotechnology program. This framework is a
combination of policy, legal, administrative and technical instruments that will regulate all
biotechnological work. It is also intended to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of
biotech materials that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of
biological diversity. The Framework is meant to provide a one-stop clearinghouse in the NBC.
The Framework also require the establishment of Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBC) by
all institutions in Nigeria, both private and public (e.g. research institutes, universities,
international research centers etc.), which plan to undertake biotechnology research and/or
development. The IBC shall consult and seek approvals from the NBC and implement
recommendations from NBC among others.
ii) Role and Membership of the Biosafety Committee (NBC)
The NBC serves as the Competent National Authority for biosafety in Nigeria. The NBC is
responsible for the safe management of biotechnology activities, including research,
development, introduction and the use of LMOs/GMOs. The Committee has 16 members drawn
from the Ministries of Agriculture, Science & Technology, Environment, Commerce, Education,
Health (NAFDAC), Industry, Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs (Nigerian Customs Service),
Justice, and NACCIMA/Organized Private Sector. The NBC will also include a Biologist, a
Physical Scientist, a Social Scientist and a Representative of NGOs distinguished in
environmental/conservation matters. The NBC is required to review all applications for the
release of products of bioengineering and make recommendations to the Minister of
Environment on whether or not to allow such products. The NBC oversees the implementation
of the National Biotechnology Program, consistent with the Biosafety Law.
The NBC has also established National Biosafety Technical Sub-committees (NBTS) to focus
on sectoral interests such as agriculture, health, industry and the environment. The sub-
committees review proposals for research and recommend the conditions under which
experiments should be conducted. They are to provide technical advice to the NBC and
contribute to its functions in relation to contained use, field trials, release and placement on the
All applications for import, field trials, transit and contained use must be routed through the
registrar of the NBA. The NBC will meet and direct the relevant NBTS to carry out risk
assessment and ensure participation of all relevant stakeholders. Findings of the NBTS are
submitted to the NBC. The NBC takes a decision, which is then conveyed to the applicant by
the Registrar of the NBA. A license to carry out event is issued by the Registrar of NBA.
The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NBDA) was established in 2001 in the
Ministry of Science and Technology to promote the development of biotechnology in Nigeria.
The agency is active in creating awareness for products of biotechnology. NBDA conducts
regular workshops for the major stakeholders in biotechnology.
iii) Political factors
The Nigerian government appreciates the potential of biotechnology to improve agricultural
productivity. The national biotechnology policy document states that the GON ?supports
biotechnology because of its immense potential to more rapidly contribute to sustainable food
security and economic growth?. The government established the National Biotechnology
Development Agency to create awareness of the technology. The field trial of biotech cowpea is
part of the approved prioritized research work of the Institute for Agricultural Research and
approved by the government. GON officials participated actively in the research work plan
meeting in which aspects of the project were discussed, indicating its commitment.
B. Approval of Biotechnology Crops
At present, no law exists to approve biotechnology crops for food, processing and feed.
C. Field Testing
In 2001, the GON adopted the National Biosafety Guidelines. The guidelines have a provision
for field-testing bio-engineered crops. The National Biosafety Committee has granted approval
to the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike and Institute of Agricultural Research
(IAR), Zaria to carry out Confined Field Trials on transgenic cassava and cowpea, respectively:
I. The maruca - resistant cowpea field trial at IAR Zaria
This biotech event was developed by CSIRO Plant Industry Laboratory at Canberra Australia.
The trial will be sited on the Research Farm of the Institute of Agricultural Research, Ahmadu
Bello University, Zaria. Preparations have reached an advanced stage for planting to
commence during the fourth week of July 2009. The field trial will evaluate transgenic events
(lines) for their reaction to the legume pod boring insect, Maruca. This leg of the trial will last
approximately 5 months to December 09. However, the trial will be repeated in 2010. A line will
be considered resistant if it does not sustain damage by the insect. In addition, effect of
environment, agronomic performance such as plant morphology, maturity and yield will be
assessed. The trial will be replicated four times.
Approval for the trial has been given by the Federal Ministry of Environment.
The confined field has been inspected by the Regulators and is proven to be of
international standard, therefore it is ready for the field trial.
Confined Field Trial Training was held recently in Abuja to equip the Principal
Investigators, Trial Managers, Technical personnel, Government Officials engaged in the
planning, conducting and overseeing confined field trials of GM plants.
A risk communication workshop organized by Africa Agriculture Technology
Foundation (AATF) and the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) was held in June
2009 in Nigeria with the main objective of equipping the principal Investigators (from
Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria), Trial Managers, Government Officials and
Stakeholders on how to communicate about GMOs and risk management to different
Application for the importation of seeds has been submitted to the National Agricultural
Plant Quarantine Service.
II. The Transgenic Cassava field Trial at Umudike
The National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike has received approval to conduct
contained field trials of biotech cassava variety. The transgenic cassava (Super Cassava), which
is fortified with vitamin A was developed at the Danforth Center.
The transgenic seedlings have been imported into the Country.
They are undergoing acclimatization after which they will be taken to the field for
confined field trials
National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) is collaborating with the institutes in
creating awareness among Nigerian cowpea clientele, while the Biosafety Office of the Federal
Ministry of Environment ensures compliance to Nigerian Biosafety guidelines in the conduct of
the trial. Internationally, the AATF provides funding platform, planning, capacity building and
linking with other donors such as the USAID; the Network for the Genetic Improvement of
Cowpea in Africa leverages scientific input of members for planning and linkage, the PBS
assists in regulatory compliance capacity building and advice.
D. Participation in Meetings of International Standard-Setting Organizations
Nigeria signed the convention on biosafety in 1992 and ratified the instrument in 1994, and was
an active participant in the negotiations leading to the adoption of the Cartagena Protocol.
Officials of key biotech agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Environment and NABDA
regularly attend meetings of international standard-setting bodies.
E. Stacked events
The NBC does not require additional approval for stacked events
F. Review and Approval Process for Biotech Products for Planting and Import
At present, no laws exist to approve biotech products for planting and imports. However, the
National Biosafety Guidelines adopted by the GON in 2001 has provision for field-testing bio-
Nigeria?s proposed biosafety bill is silent on co-coexistence. However, there are provisions for
monitoring in the draft bill. The relevant portion of the bill states, ?for the purpose of biosafety,
monitoring shall be used as a tool to ensure that the concerns expressed by stakeholders are
addressed, ensure compliance with the terms of approval, confirm claims and trace the fate of
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is the GON?s
regulatory body responsible for food product manufacturing, importation, advertisement and
distribution in Nigeria. The NAFDAC was established to protect and promote public health by
ensuring the wholesomeness, quality, and safety of food and drugs consumed in Nigeria.
NAFDAC regulations require food labeling to be informative and accurate. The minimum
labeling requirements include net content, specifying essential ingredients in metric weight for
solids, semi-solids and aerosols, and metric volume for liquids. Ingredients must be listed by
their common names in order of their prominence by weight. The regulations are being strictly
enforced, but they are not specific to products of biotechnology. The draft biosafety bill,
however, requires the mandatory labeling of all products of agricultural biotechnology in order
to protect ?consumers right to know.?
I. Biosafety Protocol
The GON signed and ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994 and the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety in November 2002. Nigeria, having signed and ratified the protocol, is
now under obligation to implement it. The implementation of the protocol is slow and has had
no effect on trade.
J. Biotechnology-Related Trade Barriers
We are not aware of any biotechnology-related trade barriers affecting U.S. exports to Nigeria
and products such as U.S. soybean meal have been imported without problems.
K. Pending Legislation
The Ministry of Environment has prepared a draft biosafety bill. The draft bill advocates
mandatory labeling of all products of agricultural biotechnology to protect ?consumers? right to
know.? If the bill were enforced once passed, it would likely affect exports of U.S. food
products to Nigeria.
L. Technology Fees
Nigeria does not have any technology fees for bio-engineered crops; neither does it have
legislation in place to collect such fees.
Section V. Marketing:
A. Market Acceptance
Generally, most Nigerians are not aware of products of modern agricultural biotechnology and
the issues involved. Information and discussions on modern biotechnology have been
undertaken largely among GON officials, scientists and researchers. Nigerian farmers and the
general public will need to be educated about the technology.
Wheat importers in Nigeria favor the precautionary approach to biotechnology. They have
learned about bio-engineered food products primarily from the U.S. - EU debate over
biotechnology. Overall, Nigerian wheat importers have expressed the opinion that the U.S.
should not introduce bio-engineered wheat into the market until all long-term health concerns
are resolved. Nigeria in one of the largest export markets for U.S. wheat.
B. Focus Group Survey
The results of a focus group survey on the attitude of the public to biotechnology revealed that
about 40 percent of respondents would not mind consuming bio-engineered food products.
Many respondents especially among those with little education were ignorant of biotechnology
and its potential usefulness. While some respondents did express concern about the long-term
health effects of consuming such products, these concerns seem to be overshadowed by their
basic need for affordable food. The survey also revealed a marked preference for biotech
products developed locally to those that are imported.
Another national survey on public awareness of agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria was
conducted in May 2004, preparatory to the launch of the Nigeria Agriculture and Biotechnology
Project (NABP). Survey results suggest that the Nigerian public is only marginally aware of
biotechnology. Those who are aware have heard something about biotechnology through stories
in the news media. Most Nigerians do not have a clear understanding of biotechnology and
many still confuse the technology with conventional breeding techniques. Nigerians are also not
very knowledgeable about national and international policy issues relating to biotechnology.
However, Nigerians are interested in the innovation and wish that it could be utilized to address
the persisting problems of poverty in the country and one-third of respondents stated that they
would be willing to eat genetically engineered (GE) food if given the opportunity.
Following close collaboration by FAS/Lagos with key government Ministries and a series of
workshops conducted by USAID funded NAPB for civil servants, policy makers, legislators and
for the members of the media, the level of awareness of issues relating to agricultural
biotechnology has improved somewhat. Most newspaper articles are well balanced and are
devoid of misconceptions about biotechnology.
A number of anti GMO NGOs are active in the country.
Section VI. Capacity Building and Outreach:
A. U.S. Government or USDA Funded Outreach activities
Over the last five years, the USDA has helped to fund scientists to work on biotechnology at the
IITA, under its technical assistance program. In addition, the Agricultural Affairs Office in
Lagos utilized the Cochran Fellowship Program to provide training in agricultural biotechnology
in the U.S. for four Nigerian scientists during the same period. In 2005, Agricultural Affairs
Office in Lagos also nominated a journalist to participate in a biotechnology seminar sponsored
by the US Grains Council.
In 2004, agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria received a boost with the launch of two linked
initiatives funded by the USAID. These are the West African Biotechnology Network
(WABNET) and the Nigeria Agricultural Biotechnology Project (NABP), implemented by
CGIAR?s International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in close collaboration with
Tuskegee University. The NABP was designed to assist Nigeria in building the framework for
decision-making that will facilitate access to the opportunities biotechnology offers and will
ensure the safe and effective application of this technology to improve agriculture. A key
element of the project is to improve implementation of bio-safety regulations; and, enhance
public knowledge and acceptance of biotechnology.
The project developed collaborative linkages with and provided facilities to some Nigerian
universities/institutes to facilitate implementation; National Biotechnology Development
Agency (NABDA) for biotech information dissemination; Sheda Science & Technology
Complex (SHESTCO) for training of scientists; National Root Crops Research Institute
(NRCRI) for plant genetic transformation; Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) for tissue
culture and University of Agriculture, Abeokuta for advanced biotechnology training.
In May 2009, USAID sponsored a study tour trip to Philippines GM crop farms for the House
Committees members on Agriculture, Environment and Science and Technology to have a
practical experience on GMOs and how they are being regulated as well as the legislation
procedure. This trip was reported to be highly successful.
B. Country Specific Needs
In order to assist the GON in its efforts to fast-track the creation of an enabling environment for
biotechnology, Post would like to arrange an activity for high-ranking, policy level officers from
the presidency, Ministry of environment, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Legislature, and
academia. Nigerian policy-makers lack accurate information about the benefits of agricultural
biotechnology and would benefit from this orientation to bolster their knowledge. The
orientation program will highlight how products derived from agricultural biotechnology are
considered in the U.S. food safety regulatory system. The proposed program is targeted for
individuals and institutions that will play vital roles in the passage of the biosafety bill into law
and its implementation. It is anticipated that the group will return to Nigeria with a renewed
determination to move forward the process of creating an enabling regulatory environment for
Capacity building training is required for the personnel of the Ministry of Environment to be
able to develop a biosafety protocol. SHESTCO requires up-to-date laboratory facilities to act
as a national center of excellence that will be able to conduct research and assessment tests.
Section VII. Author Defined:
Copies of the following documents are available in the Agricultural Affairs office.:
Nigeria Biosafety Guidelines 2001
Draft Nigeria Biosafety Bill 2006
Draft National Biosafety Framework
National Biosafety Policy
POST CONTACT AND FURTHER INFORMATION
Foreign Agricultural Service
2, Walter Carrington Crescent
Prof. B. O. Solomon
National Biotechnology Development Agency
Auther Unegbe Street
Former CAC Building
Area 11 Garki
Tel: 234-9-67156910-2, 3145472, 08034049111
Mr. Ademola Usman
Federal Ministry of Environment
Mr. Christian Fatokun
International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
PMB 5320 Ibadan
FAX: 234-2-241 2221
Dr. Godwin H. Ogbadu
Biotechnology Advanced Laboratory
Sheda Science and Technology Complex
Abuja, Federal Capital City
Tel: 234-9-523391, 8822151, 804480456