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Use of GMOs in agriculture symbolises global threat to food sovereignty

The expansive use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture is one of the most potent symbols of the worldwide threat to food justice and food sovereignty.

GMOs rally
An anti-GMO rally in Lagos

This was a submission made by Dr. Jackie Ikeotuonye, CEO, BFA Food & Health Group, in a presentation at a webinar held on Monday, December 12, 2022, to launch a campaign tagged “My Food is African”.

Organised by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in collaboration with the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), the campaign is aimed at influencing the development of a cohesive food policy which will bring together the sectoral policies on food and agriculture and realign them to build a healthy food environment, promote healthy diets for all, re-balance power in food system, and to involve a wider range of stakeholders in designing and assessing policies.

While lamenting that over 365 million acres worldwide is believed to be planted in GMO varieties of soya, maize, cotton and other crops, Dr. Ikeotuonye stated however that much of the world is continuing to resist “this uniquely controversial and invasive form of genetic manipulation of our food”.

“Facing continuing opposition to GMOs on so many scientific, economic and political grounds, corporate seed companies continue to assert the claim that their technology is necessary to feed the world,” she said, adding that several recent studies affirm that locally scaled, peasant agricultures are far better able to feed hungry people than all the innovations of global agribusiness.

According to her, the destabilising environmental effects of genetic engineering are not limited to the laboratory nor to just a few charismatic organisms. She noted that an early study suggested that genetically engineered plant varieties may be inherently more likely to outcross than their non-GMO relatives, and the consequences of genetic contamination were demonstrated countless times in the first 15 years of the GMO.

“While Bayer/Monsanto and other GMO developers often caricature their opponents as ‘anti-science’, the biotech industry itself has significantly undermined the integrity of genetic science and worked to demonise independent scientists who raise criticisms of their technology,” Dr Ikeotuonye stressed.

In a presentation titled “Transitioning to Agroecology – the Opportunities and Challenges”, Donald Ikenna Ofoegbu, Project Coordinator, Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS) Nigeria and AAPN, stated that most of Nigeria’s agricultural policy and practices by the policy makers and farmers respectively, are focused on scaling up monoculture and large-scale soil tillage.

“This system is faulty and leads to: full and constant dependency on external imported inputs; farmer’s money goes out of the farm community; soils have a constant deficit in nutrient supply and carbon/water holding capacities – soil degradation; seasonal agriculture; deficit in carbon sequestration; full dependency system, no reproduction – biodiversity loss. Such system reaches a wrong and faulty consultation that – soils are bad and required artificial inputs.”

While suggesting a switch to agroecology, he contended that agroecology/agroforestry can solve a lot of Nigeria’s socio-economic and environmental problems from their root causes.

His words: “It can ensure the regeneration of the natural ecosystem (that is, CO2 sink, improve ground water levels, etc), ensure higher productivity/income for both farmers and herders, it can provide constant income and new jobs for generations.

“It can stimulate and sustain rural development. It can ensure that full restoration of the natural biodiversity, ensure higher productivity/land use efficiency per hectare of land compared to an agricultural system based on chemicals and monoculture.”

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