By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in collaboration with the GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance, Women Environmental Programme, Bio-Integrity and Natural Food Awareness Initiative, U-Red, CISLAC and CLIMATTERS and many other CSOs have organised a rally to protest the unchecked admission into Nigeria of genetically modified (GM) crops and products.
The rally which had representatives of farmers, consumers, Civil Society Organisations, scientists, youth, women groups and the public was organised to create awareness of the implications of agricultural biotechnology and to call for a ban on genetically modified crops and food products in Nigeria.
HOMEF and the other CSOs in a statement said that “GMOs have found their way into the country either as illegally imported products or with approval of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).
“A recent market survey carried out in 10 Nigerian cities by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) confirms the presence of over 30 imported products (most of which were cereals and vegetable oils) of genetic engineering in our market shelves.
The statement condemned efforts by government and biotech corporations to persuade Nigerians to accept agricultural biotechnology and denounced the registration and release of genetically modified (GM) cotton varieties (Mahyco C567 BG II and Mahyco C571 BG II) into the country.
“The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology as well as the Ministry of Agriculture in conjunction with biotech company, Bayer/Mahyco (formally Monsanto) Agricultural Nigeria Limited, the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) and the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) held a press conference on Monday, 19th November 2018 to inform the public on the recently released transgenic cotton varieties,” the statement said.
“We were utterly embarrassed to see the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, merely regurgitated the claims of the biotech industry that GMOs would bring about increase in agricultural yields, reduce pesticide use and improve economic situation for farmers- all of which have serially been proven to be false!” the group said.
The coalition warned that the push for GMOs is- a money-making venture for the biotech corporations and their political jobbers.
“The move by the Nigerian government to commercialise the transgenic cotton varieties opens the doors for more genetically modified products (including the GM cowpea) and represents nothing but disaster for farmers, the entire public and our agricultural system.
According to Coordinator of the GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, “In 2016 Burkina Faso discontinued cultivation of this genetically modified cotton due to poor quality of the cotton and high cost of inputs. Farmers in India have had a disastrous experience with this type of cotton as it proves ineffective against the bollworm pest and causes instead a boom of non-target pests; increase in pesticide use and in production cost. China, Indonesia and Pakistan are other countries where the transgenic cotton has failed.”
On his own part, Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF said: “the results of the use of GM cotton in other countries have shown that the promoters of agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria are knowingly peddling falsehood. As if to buttress this, South African government has recently rejected Monsanto’s triple stacked GM drought tolerant maize as they found that the data provided by company was insufficient to demonstrate the claimed drought tolerance and insect resistant efficiency of the GM event.
“It is regrettable that our Ministers would front for Monsanto, a corporation that now goes by another name (Bayer), and that is well known for suppressing and distorting scientific research in order to accumulate profit at the expense of farmers, peoples and the planet. Combined with the dismal performance of the Nigerian delegation at the ongoing UN Convention on Biodiversity COP in Egypt it is clear that the GMO promoters have sold Nigerians and Africa at large for a mess of porridge. It is time for the Nigerian government to merge the National Biosafety Management Agency and the National Biotechnology Development Agency as there is no basis for their pretending to be separate entities.
According to Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje insisted that Nigeria is not ready to handle the implications of deploying genetically modified crops.
“To say that GMOs mean increased yield for farmers and the use of less herbicides and pesticides is the most blatant falsehood of the century.”