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Cablegate: Nigeria: Mission Holds Successful Outreach On Biotech

VZCZCXRO3597
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1682/01 2541424
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111424Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7007
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 1950
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001682

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR IIP/S/SEG - WEINTRAUB
DEPT PASS TO USTR - AGAMA
USDA FOR FAS/OSTA - HENNY AND RUDE
USAID FOR EGAT/ESP - ROB BETRAM AND JOSETTE LEWIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR SENV ECON TBIO NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: MISSION HOLDS SUCCESSFUL OUTREACH ON BIOTECH

1. (SBU) Introduction and Summary. Mission Nigeria hosted U.S.
Speaker Gary Blumenthal August 31-September 4 for a successful
biotechnology outreach in Ibadan, Lagos, and Abuja. Over 200
scientists, government officials, representatives of civil society,
and the media participated in the program and learned about recent
developments in biotechnology applications. The Mission helped form
a GON interagency Coordinating Committee to facilitate the passage
of a draft bill on biosafety, currently before the National
Assembly. The outreach program received wide and positive media
coverage. End Introduction and Summary.

Engaging Academics and Researchers in Ibadan
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Over 40 leading Nigerian academics listened to
presentations by Blumenthal and a Nigerian expert, Professor
Bamidele Solomon, Director General of the National Biotechnology
Development Agency (NABDA), and participated in roundtable
discussions on the pros and cons of biotechnology and its potential
applications in agriculture, medicine, and other areas. Blumenthal
pointed out that Nigeria has a good scientific and technical basis
but lacks the legislative framework to attract investments that
employ biotechnology, which will augment Nigeria's aspirations to
achieve food security.

Engaging Trade Associations, NGOs, and the Media
--------------------------------------------- ---

3. (SBU) Blumenthal and Solomon made presentations to trade and
business representatives, state and local policymakers, NGOs, and
the media at a forum organized by the Public Affairs Section in
Lagos. Responding to a question on how Nigeria can protect itself
from the adverse effects of biotechnology, Blumenthal pointed out
the need "to enact biosafety legislation containing appropriate
safety provisions." (Note: There is a biosafety bill with such
provisions now before the National Assembly. End Note) Blumenthal
noted that biotechnology has been in use for the past 13 years
without a single known adverse environmental or health impact. He
also noted that, globally, there are over two billion acres of
farmland that employ biotechnology -- an area expanding every year,
especially in developing countries. Nigerian speaker Solomon
pointed out that seven Africa countries have biosafety legislation
and are already employing biotechnology and reaping the benefits.
He added that Nigeria has made a commitment to enact such a law by
acceding to the Cartagena Protocol and has the capacity to regulate
the application of biotechnology.

4. (SBU) Blumenthal and Solomon were also keynote presenters at the
monthly Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB).
(Note: The OFAB is a forum that accesses applicable technology,
including biotechnology, to increase the productivity of African
farmers and facilitates the flow of information from the scientific
community to policymakers. End Note) Over 100 participants,
including senior GON policymakers and leading Nigerian scientists,
participated in the discussion resulting in a consensus that Nigeria
needs biosafety legislation to fully harness the benefits of
biotechnology.

5. (SBU) Blumenthal also met with the President of the Senate and
his senior staff as well as senior aides of the Chairman of the
House Committee on Agriculture to advocate for the passage of the
pending biosafety law. Blumenthal and Solomon were also interviewed
by the Nigerian Government's National Radio and Television services
and the Africa Network Television.

A Coordinating Committee on Biosafety Established
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. (SBU) The Mission used the opportunity of Blumenthal's visit to
facilitate a GON interagency meeting on biotechnology involving the
Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the
Ministry of Agriculture, and the National Biotechnology Development
Agency. The participants formed an Interagency Biosafety
Coordinating Committee to advocate for the passage of the pending
legislation. The biosafety bill, drafted in part through USAID
funding, has been in the legislative process since 2002 but has been
in limbo for the past seven years due to lack of a strong GON
advocate. Early this year, the Chairman of the House Committee on
Agriculture introduced the legislation as a private bill.

7. (SBU) Comment: The biotechnology outreach program has improved
the awareness of policymakers, legislators, scientists, and civil
society on biotechnology and the need for a biosafety law for its
safe application. The Mission will continue to engage with key GON

ABUJA 00001682 002 OF 002


interlocutors and advocate for the passage of a science-based
biosafety law consistent with international norms. End Comments.


8. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Lagos.

MCCULLOUGH

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