Cablegate: Nigeria Not Likely to Support Oau Draft Biosafety

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

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.

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