US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1590

NIGERIA NOT LIKELY TO SUPPORT OAU DRAFT BIOSAFETY LAW

Identifier: 01ABUJA1590
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1590 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-07-05 15:42:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: EAGR ETRD SENV TBIO NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ABUJA 001590 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
DEPT FOR OES/ETC, EB/ATT/BTT, AF/EOS 
USDA FOR FAS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, SENV, TBIO, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA NOT LIKELY TO SUPPORT OAU DRAFT BIOSAFETY 
LAW 
 
 
REF: STATE 101886 
 
 
1. (U) EconOff met July 2 with the Director of the National 
Biotechnology Program, Professor C. Omaliko, to discuss, per 
reftel, the OAU Draft Biosafety Law adopted by a technical 
committee May 2-5 in Addis Ababa.  The National Biotechnology 
Program falls under the aegis of the Federal Ministry of 
Science and Technology.  According to Omaliko, reftel 
information sent to the Ministry on June 27 came as a 
surprise.  He expressed outrage that the draft law had not 
been brought to his Ministry's attention by the Nigerian 
delegation to Addis Ababa.  Omaliko noted that despite joint 
responsibility for the issue, only the Ministries of 
Environment and Foreign Affairs were represented at the OAU 
meeting in May. 
 
 
2. (U) Omaliko thanked EconOff for sending reftel information 
"in time to halt Nigeria's endorsement of the draft law."  He 
said, "No way should Nigeria agree to this law. It is not in 
our national interest." Once he had received the information, 
Omaliko said, he met with Minister of Science and Technology 
Turner Isoun to discuss strategy and started drafting a memo 
to President Obasanjo that lays out the Ministry's objections 
to the OAU Draft Biosafety Law.  Paging through the draft, 
Omaliko pointed out several of these objections.  First, the 
risk assessment definitions contained in the draft law are 
far too broad.  Second, the draft sets no time limit on 
making decisions for or against GMOs and any decision, 
according to the law, would be provisional. 
 
 
3. (U) Omaliko explained that Nigeria is the first African 
country to have a national biosafety protocol. (The protocol 
is awaiting final approval by the Executive Council 
(equivalent of the U.S. Cabinet).)  He noted that 
biotechnology is one of Minister Isoun's top two priorities 
and is supported by President Obasanjo.  Omaliko said that 
his memo to the President, which he would complete that same 
day, would recommend that Nigeria halt discussions within the 
OAU regarding biosafety until the GON has reached internal 
consensus on the issues. 
 
 
4. (U) Omaliko went on to explain that the GON is in touch 
with U.S. biotech company Monsanto and that he had personally 
set up a GON trade mission to the U.S. earlier this year to 
meet with company representatives and USDA and EPA to discuss 
regulatory issues.  Omaliko commented that Monsanto 
representatives from South Africa would be in Abuja next week 
to meet with the Ministers of Agriculture and Science and 
Technology to discuss further areas for collaboration. 
 
 
5. (U) Comment.  The position of the Ministry of Science and 
Technology is to promote the development of the biotech 
industry in Nigeria as demonstrated by existing and 
continuing support for several biotechnology research 
centers, with particular focus on agricultural products. 
However, the position of the Ministry of Environment, 
particularly the perspective of Deputy Minister Okopido, is 
in support of strident biosafety legislation.  At this 
juncture, it is likely that the voice of caution from the 
Ministry of Science and Technology will prevail regarding the 
OAU Draft Biosafety Law.  End Comment. 
Jeter 

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