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Monday, March 20, 2023

GMOs in Nigeria: The silent part

“GMOs, finally approved to be grown in Nigeria,” a not so surprising news after all. The country has in recent times been trotting in the darkness of instability and economic uncertainty and it’s just not a big surprise that the oil rich nation would make room for such a decision as to approving the much controversial new wonder of biotechnology that many and more advanced countries in the world have outrightly banned. This rather fast approval which from reports took just a record time of two months from the time of application by Monsanto could make the country the fastest endorser of GMO in the world. This seems just like another timely error with potential future consequences.

Critics fear genetically modified foods can cause environmental harm and damage human health. Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk
Critics fear genetically modified foods can cause environmental harm and damage human health. Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

The authorisation reads thus: “After a thorough analysis of the application dossier, risk management plan prepared in connection with the assessment of the application for the permit, it is unlikely that the proposed release will cause adverse impact on the environment and on human health . A permit is therefore granted to the Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd as applied for“ authoritatively signed by the Director General/Chief Executive officer of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), signed on the 1st of May 2016.

In the light of the National Biosafety Management Board granting the permit to Monsanto, it only seems normal to assume that every possible risk assessment test had been carried out within the context of confined trials. But upon reflecting on the details of the approval which only has a confidential base on the risk management plans as provided by the applying body (Monsanto) and which means that the risks would only be assessed after undergoing massive commercial field trials across the country, one can only reason out a not too clearly drawn objective of the National Biosafety management in providing the permit in the first instance without a proper and prior testing conducted by the agency itself.

Clearly, the institution is definitely putting the country at risk by subjecting its national responsibility to the mere speculative integrity of a foreign body that has overtime been a subject of worldwide criticism for its controversial history. Monsanto has been noted for introducing to the world some dangerous chemical compounds like DDT, Agent Orange, and Saccharin, all of which have been known to have a commonness of negative impact on human health.

Now that the company has assumed yet another role of spear heading the move for the global acceptance of GMOs, it is expected for any country approached to weigh out any decision to be taken on the scale of precautions.

Unfortunately, recent development has put Nigeria on the spotlight of being unhealthily receptive and desperate.

While there have been quite a lot of reports debunking the not-safe labeling on GMOs, still a larger percentage hold the conviction that they are not safe. Although it doesn’t entirely look like a well pronounced divided world, but the outright banning of GMOs in most countries (Importation and cultivation) and the constant call for labeling of food products of GMO origin say a lot about the acceptance level globally.

Current events in Nigeria place the country in the spotlight of economic instability, which has further exasperated the poverty level among the teeming population. So, the likelihood of desperation for alternatives for survival is not so far-fetched even in the face of consequential dangers. But then, in the view of instances of misguided priority of institutions meant to protect the choices of the populace, one would wonder where the fate of the common man lies.

By Bamidele Oni (CEO, Green Impact International)

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