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Cablegate: The Nigerian National Assembly Holds Public Hearing On

VZCZCXRO3611
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #2321/01 3570604
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230604Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7834
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 2552
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002321

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT PASS TO USTR - LAURIE-ANN AGAMA
USDA FOR FAS/OSTA - LAWRENCE BLUM
USAID FOR EGAT/ESP - ROBERT BETRAM AND JOSETTE LEWIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR SENV ECON TBIO NI
SUBJECT: THE NIGERIAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING ON
AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

REF ABUJA 2016

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - DO NOT DISTRIBUTE OUTSIDE USG.

--------
SUMMARY
--------

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Nigerian National Assembly hosted an inaugural
biosafety legislation public hearing in Lagos. The Chairmen of the
House Committee on Agriculture and on Science and Technology urged
legislators to move forward with the implementation of national
biosafety legislation. Friends of the Earth representative spoke
out against the use and development of agricultural biotechnology in
Nigeria. The Nigerian Cassava Growers Association switched its
backing to fully support biosafety legislation. END SUMMARY.
----------------
PREVENTING HARM
---------------
2. (SBU) The Nigerian National Assembly held its first public
hearing on the proposed biosafety legislation on December 9 in
Lagos. The Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture
introduced the legislation, which seeks to establish a legal
framework for the development and use of products derived through
agricultural biotechnology, into the National Assembly. A wide
array of stakeholders, including representatives of farmers
associations, non-government organizations, research institutes,
academia and concerned federal government agencies attended the
day-long hearing. (NOTE: The proposed legislation was developed
through USAID financial and technical support in collaboration with
other USG agencies. END NOTE).

3. (SBU) The Chairmen of the House Committees on Agriculture and
Science and Technology organized the hearing and invited key
stakeholders to testify in support of the legislation, including
Federal Ministers of Agriculture, Environment, Science and
Technology and Health. The Ministry of Environment and Q@QN0QlzQ0EQdQGmde formal submissions in q1N^NQ Nigeria. He spoke positively about
his visits to the United States, China and the Philippines to
observe how application of the technology is regulated in other
countries. Chairman of the House Committee on Science and
Technology Abiodun Akinlade echoed his support for use of
biotechnology.


5. (SBU) The Director General of the Biotechnology Development
Agency (NABDA) and a researcher from the Ahmedu Bello University
(ABU) Biotech Research Center in Zaria, which is currently
conducting field trials on genetically modified cowpea, advocated
for the passage of the proposed legislation. (NOTE: The Mission,
in partnership with NABDA, conducted a successful public outreach on
biotechnology (see reftel), targeting legislatures, scientists,
policy makers, and the media in September 2009. END NOTE). A
representative of the non-governmental organization Friends of the
Earth, which operates in several West African countries, spoke
against the use and development of agricultural biotechnology in
Nigeria.

----------------
SWITCHING SIDES
----------------

6. (SBU) The head of the Nigerian Cassava Growers Association
(NCGA), who at the beginning sided with Friends of the Earth in
rejecting the legislation, changed her position and supported the
Qrejecting the legislation, changed her position and supported the
bill after hearing all the presentations. She admitted that she was
misinformed about agricultural biotechnology and promised to inform
its members about the deliberations and to encourage them to support
the legislation. (NOTE: The NCGA representative was not aware that
cassava is one of two commodities currently approved by NABDA for
biotechnology field trials in Nigeria. END NOTE).

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) The biosafety legislation, which has been six years in the
making, has reached an important landmark by going through a

ABUJA 00002321 002 OF 002


successful public hearing at the National Assembly. Key National
Assembly committee chairmen have promised to shepherd the bill
further through the legislative process in the coming legislative
calendar commencing early in 2010. It is doubtful that the
biosafety legislation would have reached this far without the USG
support in drafting the legislation as well as sensitizing key
stakeholders through a public outreach program.


8. Embassy Abuja coordinated this cable with FAS in Consulate Lagos.


SANDERS

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