A new report by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) says that the Nigerian food market was infiltrated with over 30 different products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) between 2018 and 2020.
This is despite claims by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) that the fruits and food in the markets are not genetically modified.
GMOs present several risks to the environment including increased use and accumulation of toxic chemicals, soil degradation and destruction of biodiversity, with its components reported to be possible cancer-causing elements.
Launched in Abuja on Wednesday, April 14, 2021 during HOMEF’s stakeholders conference tagged “The State of Biosafety in Nigeria,” the market survey report focused on examining the market shelves to confirm the presence of products with genetically modified ingredients in supermarkets and stores across different states of the federation.
The 2018 report revealed that 32 products containing genetically engineered ingredients were found in supermarkets across states in the Federation.
The report listed mayonnaise/salad cream, cereals, noodles, chocolates, food spice, amongst others, as products found containing genetically engineered ingredients.
It added that products with genetically engineered ingredients were mostly imported from the USA, China, India and South Africa.
“Product labeled as produced with genetic engineering or as containing genetically engineered ingredients were seen in seven cities and were 32 in number. They include cereals, mayonnaise/salad creams, biscuits, chocolates, ice cream, noodles, cake/pancake mix, food spices, vegetable oils and were mostly imported from USA, China, India, South Africa,” the 2018 report detailed.
“Genetically modified ingredients labeled were largely corn and soy,” it added.
In 2019, the report disclosed that about 47 products containing genetically modified ingredients or produced with genetic engineering were found in supermarkets and stores across nine states surveyed in the cause of the study.
The 2019 survey uncovered 15 new products with genetically modified ingredients including varieties of vegetable oils.
“This survey revealed the presence of 47 products that contain genetically modified ingredients or produced with genetic engineering. These products are spread across supermarkets and stores in 9 states that were surveyed. The products include vegetable oil, cereals, Ice cream, chocolates, food spices, mayonnaise/salad cream, cake mix, etc,” the 2019 survey report read.
“A total of 15 new food products of genetic modification were seen in the 2019 survey and they included varieties of vegetable oils, cereals, food seasoning spices and mayonnaise.”
Speaking on the findings of the report, Director, HOMEF, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, who countered NBMA’s claims, said that GMOs were still very much present in the Nigerian food market.
He further pointed out that the guidelines for gene-editing and extreme GMOs are vicious and needless.
“Contrary to the assurance by the agency that there are no GMOs in Nigeria, market shelf surveys carried out by the HOMEF between 2018 and 2020 have revealed the presence of over 30 different products containing genetically modified ingredients produced with genetic engineering,” Mr Bassey said.
“As we have said elsewhere, the purpose of introducing the so-called definitions into the Biosafety Act was to create a crack in the door so as to open Nigeria to vested interest promoting the easy -to-weaponise and extinction-driving gene editing technology. This agency should be called to order. At no time should Nigerians be used as guinea pigs or laboratory rats.”
Mr Bassey highlighted the need to empower mechanisms and institutional structures to ensure the effective and holistic implementation of biosafety regulatory protocols and management of Nigeria’s local bio-resources in all applicable sectors.
He further urged the regulatory agency to properly label products with GMOs to help Nigerians understand the product that they are consuming.
By Ayomide Emeka Joseph