Developments in genetic engineering have led to the development of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) and their derived products in crops, food and consumer goods. This evolution from purely research and development endeavour to consumable products has generated serious debate on the benefits and risks associated with altering the genetic material of living organisms. Although genetic modifications of plants and animals through domestication and controlled breeding have gone on with little debate for several thousand years, it was only since 1973 that scientists began to transfer isolated genes from one organism into the DNA of other organisms. The use of this technology has become more widespread and sophisticated such that there is now increased public concern over the safety of genetically modified plants and animals especially in their use for human consumption. The uncertainty over the effects of genetically modified crops and the consumption of GM foods has also raised concerns in the health profession over the regulation and safety of GM foodstuff. For the purpose of the NBSAP, the immediate concern is on the regulation of the trans-boundary movement of living modified organisms and procedures for risk assessment and safety in the utilization of such organisms in Nigeria.

The expert consultation process on this issue reached the conclusion that this was clearly a policy area where the grafting of foreign solutions based on experiences from outside our region may prove to be catastrophic. The NBSAP provides for multi-sectoral approach in developing legislation and establishing guidelines for the control and monitoring of GMO’s. Counter-balancing this need for caution is the equally important national development objective of participating and harvesting the fruits of this technology, which has been widely recognized as being capable of changing the entire agro-pharmaceutical industry. The national strategy advocates increased activities in the non-transgenic biotechnology processes, use of naturally occurring micro-organisms for industrial processes and to improve agricultural productivity and the intensification of traditional plant breeding technologies, while developing adequate guidelines and protocols for field testing and subsequent release of genetically modified organisms For a biodiversity rich country such as Nigeria, unregulated importation and use of living genetically modified organisms may be catastrophic to the environment, human health and sustainable development of the country.