GMO foods not safe for Nigerians- HOMEF

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

The Director of an ecological think-tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Rev Nnimmo Bassey and Dr. Ifeanyi Cashmir, a Molecules Diagnostics Traditional Science Expert have noted that despite the shortage of foods face in the nation, Nigerians should discourage the circulation of Genetically Modified Organism foods.

They gave the advise in Port Harcourt during a training for media personnel on Biosafety and Genetic Engineering organised by HOMEF.

Bassey noted that the world can still survive comfortably through the produce of traditional and conventional farmers and not the industrial GMOs. He added that another challenge of food circulation is bad roads across the nation.

He recalled that “Nigeria started approving the Genetically Modified Organism on May 1, 2016, and that was for Genetically Modified Cotton. Since then they have tried GMO on cassava, maize and now there is GMO beans in the country. So these agencies and companies are targeting our food staples and we are saying that Nigerians must be aware of what they are eating”.

According to Bassey, “Food safety is a challenge facing us as regards what to eat. There is need for people to have access to good food. We want food to be seen as life and culture and not as commodity.

“The problem facing us as regards food is that there is no access road to move food from rural communities to the cities. The few that try would increase their prices.

“There is also the problem of storage facilities, processing facilities, no fair pricing are reasons foods from villages hardly get to the cities.

“People are not hungry because there is no food to eat, but over 30% of food goes waste and most used for industrial purposes”.

“The world today is fed by small scale farmers and the world is producing enough food to feed double of the world population we have. So we have alot of concern not to allow Genetically Modified Organism foods in the system”.

He however, called on the government not to be influenced by ambition of those who may not mean good for the nation but for their political selfishness, adding that the good must promote the traditional system of food than the GMOs.

“Our call for Nigerian Government is that the country does not need Genetically Modified Organism. The fact that you made a mistake doesn’t mean that you cannot retrace your steps, Africans doesn’t need GMO. These are just things political put in our system, marketing farmers from elsewhere, from industrial giants from other parts of the world to colonise our agriculture system.

“We have been told that we cannot feed the world because we do ordinary farming, traditional farming, with conventional farming, there is GMOs because this is technology there is enough food to feed the world but the truth again is that from the research done comparing GMO corn and Conventional corn in Europe, there is hardly any difference in terms of their quality. In order words, GMOs don’t produce more than natural crops”.

On his part, Dr. Ifeanyi Cashmir, a Molecules Diagnostics Traditional Science Expert, noted that Genetically modified Orgnanisms, GMOs, was not the way out of food shortage and hunger.

Cashmir, who is also the National Publicity Secretary, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMSLN, said “Many countries of the world are not allowing the free hands we see here in Nigeria. In 2015, we got the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, come from the signature of President Goodluck Jonathan, which is one of the prerequisites for countries that want to play with Biotechnology and Generic Engineering as to protect people.

“NESRA has in its act to have access to Generic environment. I don’t know the role they are playing in all the GMOs that have been approved.

“The way we have turned the Biosafety Agency as a one stop for approval for free trials yields less than desired. We should bring in more hands.

“GMO is not a silver bullet that will solve the problem of food shortage, hunger or climate change. What we need is the Ministry of Agriculture and Central Bank and Bank of Agriculture is to lend resources to small scale farmers to be able to improve their operations.”

He tasked farmers against the use of chemicals on their crops, adding that it does not only affect humans but also aquatic lives.

Cashmir said: “Government should develop seed bank for farmers so that we use our traditional seeds in farming. If there is a seed bank when there is shortage of seed and crops we relaunch them.

“We must start discouraging our farmers as regards indiscriminate use of chemicals in our farms. The chemicals we use in our farms end up running into the rivers and destroy the aquatic lives.”

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