For every time Stanley Meets Mutesa as described by David Ribadu, from the pre-colonial days till recently, the story ends with Africa opening up her doors to episodes of exploitation. The first is mental exploitation; making us believe we have a problem and the West has the key to solving them with all holy intention.
Next comes the resource exploitation; taking away raw materials (with pennies i.e. our crude oil, ingenious seeds, cash crops and plants), process abroad and importing back to us (in fortune we pay i.e the processed fuel and GMO seeds and her associated herbicides and fertilisers). They taking away our local indigenous seed and plant varieties especially the highly demanded staple foods (cassava, maize, soya beans, etc); telling us our problem is food shortage and posing as a messiah to offer subsidised herbicides and fertilisers (with long episodes of safety instructions that both the educated and uneducated farmers cannot understand) the resulting application, is the destruction of our agricultural land.
We must choose how we defined ourselves and our problem (that is, food wastage and not food shortage). We must seek our own solution and new learning; we must start to ask ourselves real questions and seek our own solution first from our history and question the intentions of supposed helping nations.
Even when some Western countries in Europe (Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungry, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Switzerland) have all put a ban on GMOs to protect the safety of their citizens, our elected lawmakers and the executives in government agencies continue to push Nigerian citizens towards the consumption of GMO food. Today Nigerians do not know which food isGM or not. The lawmakers as well as the regulatory agencies (NAFDAC, CPC, NBMA, NABDA, etc) are not pushing for GMO labelling in Nigeria nor a ban of GMO for food like their European counterparts. We have no stiff sanctions, strict liability and redress on GMO in Nigeria.
Even when other counties like India and Burkina-Faso have gotten their cotton market threatened with Western capitalist corporations, who come into their borders under the guise of providing technical support, export and prototype indigenous local seed and plant varieties to birth improve engineered GM variety to capture local economies, Nigeria refuses to heed wisdom for the selfish gain of a few.
Indigenous local seeds and plant varieties previously used by farmers are destroyed by applied chemicals; herbicides and inorganic fertilisers sold by the same western companies; this compromises and conditions our soil in a way that only the GM seeds flourish. The GM seeds cannot be stored for replanting; thus, our local farmers and the entire country will depend on these western companies to purchase seeds and their supporting chemicals forever. To secure the exploitation, these capitalist companies support the drafting and shaping of local laws, and policies in their target countries; they shape patent laws which give them the rights to ownership of new engineered specie, that is GMO or labelled improved engineered seeds.
Where are the toxicology studies that are are supposed to prove that the GMO foods approved by the NBMA are safe and who is paying for these studies? Where are the laws that allow Nigerians the right to choose what they eat – organic or GM? Where are the sanction laws?
How safe will the future of our children be in the next 50 years; when they must import and buy food, whose genes have been modified in the laboratory? How safe will our children be in the next 50 years when the farmlands are too infertile to grow food without chemical fertilisers? Will our blood line still exist if the GM foods we eat today are found to be unsafe in the next 50 years making our grand children possibly sterile; simply because we fail to have publicly verifiable GMO safety test or GMO for food?
For a lot of international corporations, it’s all about the profit, market expansion and repatriating monies back to their home country. We must make no mistake to think any person, nation or corporations consider African lives or the lives of our children more sacred than the profit they stand to gain today.
We must be wise and courageous enough to protect our nation, her people, her tradition, environment, resources (land, seeds, plants and forest), her unity and generations yet unborn else we are better off dead today as a people with no identity and pride.
By Achamao Onuche Joseph, University of Abuja