Gene editing, synthetic biology is dangerous to human existence – Experts warn Buhari

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By Chika Onyesi

A coalition of over 40 NGO’s representing ‘‘GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance’’, led by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation have called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign into law a Bill for an Act to amend the National Biosafety Management Agency Act of 2015.

The Senate had recently passed the Bill for an Act to amend the National Biosafety Management Agency Act with a view to enlarging the scope of its application which will include other evolving aspects of modern biotechnology.

The coalition says adding these evolving aspects of biotechnology in the NBMA Act will open up the country to more dangerous experimentations on aspects of the highly controversial genetic modification technology.

The group says Nigeria is still grappling with the basics of applying genetically modified organism and is not ready to advance to a more technical level.

In a statement made available to the media, the Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey explained that gene drive is a genetic engineering tool which is used to force artificial genetic changes through entire populations of animals, insects and plants.

He warned that this technology has the potential of wiping off whole populations of organisms within a short time and can be harnessed as a biological weapon, thereby constituting a threat to national, regional and global security.

‘‘The evolving aspects of modern biotechnology referred to as gene drives/gene editing and synthetic biology are known to pose serious risks to global biodiversity and will harm our economy, our health,  our food and ecosystems’’ Bassey says

He explained that currently, at global level, there is no agreement on how to carry out risk assessments or establish risk management measures for gene drive organisms nor clear guidelines on how to establish that appropriate, free, prior and informed consent of local communities which will be affected.

“Until a global agreement is reached on these, it is our concern that any new framework enabling new gene-edited changes will also have the effect of creating loopholes allowing for the release gene drive organisms  in Nigeria to disastrous results,” he added.

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