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Global Prolife Alliance: Why Nigeria must not adopt GMOs

In a response to recent submission by officials of Monsanto, Philip Njemanze, Chair of the Global Prolife Alliance (GPA) frowns at the idea of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and lists 10 reasons why Nigeria must not embrace it

GMOsWe at the Global Prolife Alliance (GPA) as leading health, legal and environmental experts along with other environmental stakeholders like the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Friends of the Earth (FoE), and several farmers’ associations representing over 14 million Nigerians were appalled by the response of Monsanto. The response by Charla Lord, the Monsanto spokesperson published in Premium Times June 11, 2016 is a clear manifestation of the condescending, deceptive and racist attitude of Monsanto towards African countries. Monsanto believes that Africans are not abreast with the current scientific literature. So we will accept nonsense out of ignorance. Well this is not the case as they will see.

First, let us define genetically modified organisms, as organisms (plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GMO are often called GMO foods. There are at least 10 reasons why Nigeria must not adopt GMO foods.

 

The issuance of Food Safety Permits to Monsanto is illegal

The so-called permits issued by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) on Sunday May 1, 2016 probably at a hotel premises are not only illegal for the obvious reasons that the transaction was unofficial and occurred under shoddy circumstances, but even more seriously, that they constitute gross violations of extant laws in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The NBMA is not authorised under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to certify foods as safe for release into the market under the NBMA Act 2015. They certification meant is the Act, is for procedural processes that involve methods of biotechnology not the safety of the food itself. The food safety certifications (GMOs or not) are all in the purview of the National Agency for Food, Drug and Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Specifically, the Food Products Registration Regulation S.1.7 of 1996 under Sections 5 and 9, 2nd January 1996: Section 1.(1) Every food manufactured, imported, exported, and advertised, sold or distributed in Nigeria shall be registered in accordance with the provisions of these regulations; Section (2) notwithstanding, the provisions of sub-paragraph (1) of this regulation the manufacture or importation of any food product as a sample for registration shall be undertaken with the approval of the Agency.

Aforementioned, therefore suggests that the NBMA cannot authorise the release of any product as food or medicine. The NBMA has no right to issue permits on food safety in conflict with the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Hence all permits issued by the agency for food are null and void and of no effect. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act of 1992 is the core legislation that governs environmental impact assessment in respect of proposed projects in Nigeria and flows directly from the provisions of Principle 17 of Rio Declaration: Environmental Impact Assessment as or national instrument shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority. The EIA Act therefore makes it mandatory that, before the final decision is taken or approval given for any activity likely to significantly affect the environment (including mandatory studies for Agricultural projects in Schedule 1), the effect of such activity shall first be taken into account. The state and local governments are also empowered to carry out their own impact assessment studies. Hence, all permits issued by NBMA with regard to biosafety for the environment is null and void and of no effect.

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The National Biosafety Agency Act 2015 is unconstitutional and defective

The Act breaches the fundamental Precautionary Principles of a regulatory body which include independence and right to appeal decisions. There is no section of the Act that mandates independent research by institutions, universities and laboratories to validate the research presented by the Biotechnology companies like Monsanto, Bayer or Syngenta. The NBMA Act only requires 270 days after publication in two national dailies as notification that a GMOs crop would go to the market place. No independent research is required. If any studies are to be done, they would be funded by the respondent! He who pays the piper dictates the tune. How can a firm be the judge over its affairs? This is a conflict of interest. The NBMA is not staffed or equipped for validation of these studies in its role as a regulatory agency. There is no right of appeal of the decisions of the NBMA board by members of the public or stakeholders. However, the biotechnology companies are given right to appeal. The fact that there is a lack of Right to Fair Hearing for all Nigerians is a violation under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thus, NBMA is defective and unconstitutional.

 

GMOs crops would not increase yield potential and hence not solve the food crisis

Monsanto pretends that they are not aware of the recent findings that GMO corn does not increase crop
yields. A recent work published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability Volume 12, Issue 1, 2014 by Jack Heinemann et al. Heinemann et al., a professor of genetics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, found that in the United States from 1986 to 2011the average yields of GMO corn was lower that corn yields over the same period in western Europe, where GMO corn are not allowed. African countries should follow the European model that has prevented the planting of GMO corn and other GMOs crops, and not the US model. There is nothing to be gained for the farmer by planting GMO crops.

 

GMO foods are unhealthy

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors not to prescribe GMOs diets for patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how GMOs foods can leave genetic material inside the human body causing long-term damage. Genes inserted into GMO soy, maize, yellow cassava (provitamin), yellow yam, tomatoes (deceptively called hybrid) can transfer into DNA of bacteria in the gut. The toxic insecticide produced by GMO corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn foetuses. Milk from treated cows has more of the hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) which has been linked to cancer.

 

GMOs will contaminate the environment in Nigeria forever

GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel tens to hundreds of miles away. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene fool. A small GMO crop plantation could cause a contamination 10 times the entire Niger Delta oil spills and can never be cleaned off. This contamination of the environment with GMOs is harder to clean-up than Hiroshima atomic bomb effects on the environment.

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GMO foods illegally grown in Nigeria are unfit for human consumption because of pesticide use

The European Food Safety Authority detected a 460 times above lethal limits of a very toxic carcinogenic pesticide – dichlorvos. The GMO crops are engineered to be “herbicide tolerant” – the deadly weed killer, Monsanto Roundup Ready crops are designed to survive applications of the Roundup herbicide. In the United States between 1996 and 2008, farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. The overuse creates “superweeds” resistant to the herbicide. This is harmful to the environment and the GMO foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. The Monsanto Roundup has been linked with infertility, hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and cancer.

 

GMO foods can create monster humans because of gene mixtures

Overtime, very disastrous consequences of GMO foods are emerging. The mixing of genes from totally unrelated species through genetic engineering is unleashing unpredictable side effects, including new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, nutritional deficiencies and possibly monster humans from birth defects.

 

Monsanto’s scientific citations cannot be trusted

The so-called research on GMO yellow cassava shows it contains protein funded by Bill Gates (the main billionaire investor in Monsanto), was proven to be falsehood
(see retraction http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0016256#aff1). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through BioCassava Plus Africa programme and cassava research funded the study at the Danforth Centre in St Louis Missouri, USA. The retraction of the paper published at the website of the journal PLoS One says “The Committee on Research Integrity at Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre has carried out an institutional investigation which revealed that significant amounts of data and supporting documentation that were claimed to be produced by the first author could not be found. Given that the validity of the results could not be verified, and in line with the recommendation issued by the corresponding author’s institution, the authors retract the article. The authors apologised to the readers.” (see
RetractionWatchhttp://retractionwatch.com/2012/09/14/plos-one-gmo-cassava-paper-retracted-after-data-could-not-be-found/).

However, to this day the BioCassava project is still distributing these yellow cassava seeds in Nigeria and peddling scientific lies. The Monsanto spokesperson cites the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as approving their GMOs crops, but does not reveal the background. It is a known open secret that the FDA has serious public credibility problems on issues of biosafety of GMOs crops. Secret FDA memos made public by a lawsuit show that the overwhelming consensus even among FDA’s own scientists was that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects. They urge long-term studies. But the White House had instructed the FDA to promote biotechnology, and the agency official in charge of policy was Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, later their vice president. He is now the US Food Safety Czar. This is no different in Nigeria, where the former Minister of Agriculture Dr Akinwumi Adesina, now President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), was a director at the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) tied to Bill Gates Foundation, and is the main proponent of GMOs for Africa, which many fear is a major strategy of the AfDB.

 

GMO crops harms environment and natural ecosystem of plants and animals

The GMO crops and their associated herbicides harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable. Roundup herbicides cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths, endocrine disruptions and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. They pass genes to weeds which become “superweeds”.

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Danger to national security, beginning of biological colonialism in Africa

GMOs crops have their genes for replication (to give rise to another plant) turned off. This means that the farmer has to go each time to the biotechnology companies or through their proxies at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), National Root Crops Research Institutes (NRCRI), several Nigerian billionaires’ foundations, government agencies to collect the seeds each planting season for a fee. In India, for example, Bt Cotton was at first given for free, then for about 300 rupees, and 1,200 rupees. The costs were out of reach for the poor Indian farmers. About 250,000 farmers lost their cotton farms because they could not afford the seeds and committed suicide. The largest number of public suicides from a single cause in world history. A similar trend is now occurring in Burkina Faso, where the Bt Cotton introduced by Monsanto does not meet the accepted fibre length by international standards, so the farmers have lost hard currency revenue.

Nigerians must reflect on answers to these crucial questions: What would the biotechnology firms want in return for their GMOs seeds? If the firm wants a particular candidate as President of Nigeria, would his campaign not be given the seeds to distribute and the other parties excluded? You either vote the Pro-GMOs party or you hunger. Would Nigeria have democracy and freedom? If the firm or foreign government giving us the seeds wants us to pass Same-Sex Marriage, could they not easily decide to withhold GMOs seed distribution until we comply? Can we worship freely as Muslims and Christians believing that abortion is evil, if the foreign government thinks otherwise? Can we say we have an African culture where the woman is the mother and the man is the father, when the foreign government thinks that, that is gender stereotyping liable to imprisonment? Nigeria’s population would be cut at will of the foreign government, by instructing the biotechnology company to insert the gene for infertility in yellow cassava and yellow yam which are major staples. How are we sure that the biotechnology companies are not the foreign sponsors of terrorism by Boko Haram who are killing and displacing farmers in the Northeast food basket of Nigeria, so they will lose their natural seeds to be replaced by GMOs seeds during resettlement of Internally Displaced People (IDPs)? How are we sure that the biotechnology firms are not the foreign sponsors of the so-called Fulani herdsmen, who are devastating farming communities in the Southeast and Southwest, the world largest producers of cassava, so that they can replace the natural cassava with GMOs yellow cassava (pro vitamin) seeds currently being distributed by IITA and NRCRI?

The gene for infertility could be inserted in our foods. Just like the Talwar infertility fragment was inserted into tetanus vaccine according to court proceedings against international population control organisations in the Philippines. We the stakeholders warn of imminent class action suits against any biotechnology firm that introduces any foods or crops under NBMA issued licenses. The claims of damages would be more than their net worth.

Vigilance and activism is demanded of all Nigerians. GMOs food is the greatest weapon of biological warfare ever invented, in the hands of the most vicious capitalist biotechnology companies. The paradox is that the corrupt few want to approve it by law to kill us all. God forbid. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

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