Court upholds approval of commercialisation of GMO cotton
The Federal High Court in Abuja has upheld a 2017 judgment and dismissed the suit filed by some groups against the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) for approving the commercialisation of Bt Cotton in the country.
Delivering the judgment, Justice D.U. Okoro said the suit was, however, struck out because it appeared statute-barred and the group proceeded to reinstitute a case against the agency and its defendants at the high court.
It will be recalled that the agency had, in 2016, issued the permit for the commercial release and commercialization of the genetically modified cotton to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited.
Subsequently, a coalition of 16 civil society organisations, led by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in September 2017, filed a lawsuit against the biosafety agency, the first defendant and the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) as the second defendant.
Ministers of environment, agriculture, the attorney general of the federation and the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) were also defendants in the genetically modified organism case.
Speaking on the issue, the NBMA boss, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, described the ruling as a “win for biotechnology application and biosafety regulation,” urging Nigerians to trust them for safe products that would positively affect food security and economic development.
Ebegba also added that the victory would also give other African countries the impetus to stand firm in terms of regulating GMO products of safety in the modern biotechnology in the respective countries.
He, therefore, said it was difficult to see why biotechnology products, which had been scrutinised by the biosafety regulator and found to pose no health risk or negative environmental impact, should not be approved.
“As long as Bt.Cotton has been declared safe for humans and the environment and also verified to add economic value to the nation, it should be approved to strengthen the nation’s food security and economic development,” he remarked.