The Nigerian government has been called upon to withdraw permits granted for the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to avert implications for health, environment and economy.
The call was made in a presentation titled “The State of Biosafety in Nigeria: Urgent Need for Critical Action” delivered by a group of civil society organisations in Lagos on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 at a media session.
The group comprises GMO Free Nigeria Alliance, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Corporate Accountability and Public Participation for Africa (CAPPA), We the People, and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN).
Delivered by Joyce Brown of HOMEF, the group also demanded that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act 2015 and as amended in 2019 should be urgently reviewed to close the existing gaps and to ensure it protects the interests of the Nigerian people.
She disclosed that HOMEF has drafted a review of the Act, and advised the National Assembly should take it up.
“Section 10 of the Act should be reviewed to exclude promoters of GMOs in the governing board of NBMA,” she stated, adding that, with adequate support for small-scale farmers in terms of infrastructure, timely credit schemes, extension service, access to land and irrigation services., Nigeria can increase productivity, reduce waste and strength the local economy.
Making a case for agroecology, the activists describe the phenomenon as central to achieving food sovereignty. It is, according to the, a system of agriculture that nourishes agroecosystems, is less dependent on fossil fuel energy, respects grassroots farmers knowledge and participation and uses diverse ecological practices.
“Agroecology has the potential to optimally improve food productivity and help with mitigation and resilience to climate change,” they declared, pointing out that ethical principles should be applied to every class of scientific experiments and research where biosafety risks threaten public health, “since there is no doubt that scientific processes and products may have negative consequences”.
The called for the domestication of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol by enactment in line with the Nigerian Constitution, adding that this will eliminate legal limitation in the implementation of biosafety norms in the country.
Government was further called upon to discourage the use of inorganic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides especially Roundup Ready and the glyphosate containing formulations which, according to them, have dire implications for human health and ecosystem balance.
They also demanded synergy and synchrony in biosafety responsibilities among and between the various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) for effective regulation in Nigeria.
According to the group, long term, independent risk assessment covering environmental, health and economic impacts including animal studies should be carried out on GMOs. They noted that data from the same actors promoting GMOs cannot be relied on, and that research institutes in Nigeria should be adequately funded to encourage local innovations/solutions.
They concluded: “Nigeria should critically examine emerging technologies promoted either for food or climate change. Solutions which destroy biodiversity and put local economies and grassroots people at a disadvantage are no solutions.”