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Campaigners demand ban on GMOs in Nigeria

Representatives of farmers, consumers, civil society organisations, scientists, youth and women groups on Monday, December 17, 2018 denounced the admission into Nigeria of genetically modified (GM) crops and products.

Anti-GMO public rally
The anti-GMO public rally in Abuja

The condemnation was made at a public rally in Abuja, where the campaigners claimed that the products pose a threat to the nation’s food system, biosafety and overall well being.

The demonstration, according to them, was aimed at increasing public awareness on the implications of agricultural biotechnology and to call for a ban on genetically modified crops and food products in Nigeria.

GMOs have found and are still finding their way into the country either as illegally imported products or with approval of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), the activists allege, saying that a recent market survey carried out in 10 Nigerian cities by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) “confirms the presence of over 30 imported products (most of which were cereals and vegetable oils) of genetic engineering in our market shelves”.

“The NBMA approves nearly every application brought to it without proper safety assessments, without due consideration of public opinion or the impact of proposed activities or of the concerns raised by the public. A notorious case of concern is the approval of importation of genetically modified (GM) maize by WACOT Ltd in December 2018 just a few weeks after the company had tried to smuggle the grains in. The law was blatantly disregarded in this case as it requires that a minimum of 270 days be given before any application is approved to allow for proper impact assessments,” said the activists at the rally, which was organised by was organised by HOMEF in collaboration with the GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance, Women Environmental Programme, Bio-Integrity and Natural Food Awareness Initiative, U-Red, CISLAC and CLIMATTERS, as well as several other CSOs.

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The coalition stressed that, besides the possibility that there are no proper risks assessments conducted, the Nigerian public is largely unaware of the type of food that is on their plates. They noted that while other nations are taking steps to ban the use of GMOs and review their biosafety laws, the Nigerian government appears to be bent on introducing more GM crops into the environment as, according to the coalition, it prepares to release a variety of cowpea which is acclaimed to be resistant to the Maruca insect pest.

They lamented that while the battle against use of GMOs rages on, other technologies such as synthetic biology (Synbio) and gene drives organisms (GDOs) that have dire socio-economic and ecological consequences are finding their way to Africa.

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“Yet, shockingly, most African countries have become advocates for gene drives probably with the hope of attracting grants and other pecuniary benefits. This was evident at the recently concluded Conference of Parties (COP24) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which held in Egypt where Nigeria and South Africa were the spokespersons for Africa,” the coalition stated, even as it lists its demands to include:

  • A nullification of the permits already granted for dealings with GM products in Nigeria
  • A close surveillance of our borders, markets and farms to halt illegal entry of GMOs into Nigeria
  • A ban of all toxic agro chemicals, especially those composing of glyphosate which has been identified as a probable carcinogen.
  • A halt to the assault on our agriculture through genetic modification of staple crops and a halt on negotiations towards adoption of Gene Drives.
  • An urgent review of the National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015
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The coalition submitted: “We urge that Nigeria should be circumspect about technologies that aim to contaminate our natural varieties and environment, destroy our agricultural systems, rupture our socio-economic fabric and assert unbridled control over our food system. Our government should focus on supporting local farmers with needed infrastructure-storage and processing facilities, access to land and loans and provision of accessible markets.

“We reject agricultural biotechnology as solution for food challenges and demand that Nigeria should instead invest in innovative systems such as Agroecology which in addition to ensuring productivity, protect/enhance ecosystems and promotes economic well being of farmers.”

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