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Food experts challenge NASS to prohibit use, consumption of GMOs

Food experts have called for the prohibition of the use, consumption and promotion of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country.

GMOs
GMOs

GMOs can either be animal, plant, or microorganism whose gene has been altered in a way that do not occur naturally to achieve a desired trait, character or outcome using genetic engineering technologies.

The experts spoke to newsmen on Friday, March 22, 2024, on the sideline of a workshop for judicial officers titled: “State of Biosafety in Nigeria”, organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in Abuja.

The aim of the workshop is to equip judicial officers with the requisite knowledge on GMO and its infringement on fundamental human right.

To achieve this, the experts said the National Assembly should amend the National Biosafety Management Agency’s (NBMA) Act to prohibit the use, consumption and promotion of GMOs in the country.

Prof. Qrisstuberg Amua, Director-General, Centre for Food Safety and Agricultural Research, said that the call to eliminate GMO in the country was “a matter of national security”.

He said that government must be wary of strange narratives of food shortage, climate change and insecurity in the country as they could be sponsored by proponents of GMOs to invade and hijack Nigeria’s food system.

Amua said that efforts must be made to address insecurity, return farmers back to the fields, fix local infrastructure like roads, silos and processing plants, adding that Nigeria would feed Africa again.

According to him, Nigeria does not need GMOs to ensure food security, saying that “it poses threat to the environment and public health.

“The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) was established by an Act and this Act has some loopholes.

“It requires the National Assembly to look into it and review it so that it will be more effective in protecting and safeguarding the biosafety of citizens of Nigeria.

“For example, National Biosafety Development Agency (NBDA) is supposed to be regulated by NBMA, but NBDA is on the board of NBMA which we think is strange because how will you regulate someone on your governing board.

“There are also some elements in the law that point to the fact that they are free to accept gifts from certain quarters, though there are some conditions given but we also found it strange.

“This is because if you are free to accept gifts, it means that anybody who is trying to push an agenda from outside Nigeria can find a way to lobby you and give you gifts that will influence the certification that the person is seeking for.

“Such are the anomalies, and we seek to interface with the legislators to open them up to see those anomalies and find ways as they are saddled with the responsibility of making laws for the good governance and protection of this country,” he said.

Dr Ifeanyi Casmir, a Medical Microbiologist and Public Health Consultant, said that there were many studies that suggested that GMOs could cause cancer.

According to him, we do not know enough about the impact of GMOs on the people and plans for us to be very categorical about its safety.

He said: “The risk factor is not zero and Nigeria does not have a testing protocol that is able to evaluate the impact of human consumption of GMOs as available claims of its safety are being sponsored by its manufacturers.

“They use the deception of high yield and pest resistance to smuggle those things and farmers are left with sand in their mouths.

“Because when they do the first year, if they have the increasing yield, and they repeat in the second year, they have 100% loss in yield, where is the promised yield?

“The yield increase is all deception, and we are worried that we are losing the indigenous germ plasm of plants.

“So, there are issues about health, environment, socio-economic implications and cultural implications about genetic modification.

“The food people eat is an integral part of their culture.

“That is what defines them. If you completely alter that, you have set in motion processes of ethnic cleansing. You will eliminate the people, you will wipe them out,” he said.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Executive Director, HOMEF, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, said that Nigeria, like many other African nations, stood at a crossroads to her food future.

“The stark choice is between adopting agricultural biotechnology in line with the industrial agriculture model or agroecology,” he said.

According to Bassey, biotechnology, in the guise of enhancing agricultural productivity and fostering economic development, locks in monocultures, loss of biodiversity, seed monopoly and seed/food colonialism.

“Agroecology delivers increased productivity and economic resilience and also nourishes and revives ecosystems, strengthens local economies, mitigates climate/environmental crises and promotes food sovereignty.

“Judges play a crucial role in adjudicating disputes, ensuring due process, and upholding the rights of all stakeholders, including farmers, consumers, and environmental advocates.

“Adjudicators should resist pressures and influence of vested interests and ensure that decisions regarding GMOs are guided by the precautionary approach, ethical principles and scientific evidence.  

“While technological advancements hold out promises, we must not compromise the safety of our people or the integrity of our ecosystems,” Bassey said.

He noted: “It is imperative to approach the issue of GMOs and biosafety with the utmost diligence, impartiality, and commitment to upholding the principles of justice.

“It is our hope that this training will deepen our understanding, encourage meaningful dialogue and resolve to promote the common good and our collective right to food justice,” he said.

By EricJames Ochigbo

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