By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
Stakeholders have advocated effective monitoring to stop the introduction of harmful food products into the country.
The call was made at a Stakeholders Conference on ‘The State of Biosafety in Nigeria’.
It was organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).
At the conference, a new report revealed the presence of over 30 different products containing genetically modified ingredients or produced with genetic engineering between 2018 and 2020.
Speaking, the Executive Director of HOMEF, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, explained that the modern agricultural biotechnologies are the basic varieties involving the transfer of genetic materials from one specie to another to accord certain traits such as to be herbicide tolerance or being pesticidal.
He said it was mind-boggling for Nigeria to expand the scope of her biosafety regulation to cover gene editing and synthetic biology when the handling of the elementary versions has generated serious doubts and worries.
Bassey stated: “Contrary to the assurance by the agency that there are no GMOs in Nigeria, market shelf surveys carried out by HOMEF between 2018 and 2020 have revealed the presence of over 30 different products containing genetically modified ingredients produced with genetic engineering.”
“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-weaponize 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. “
Bassey stressed that it was not too late for Nigeria to get out of the biotech hole before it turns into a bottomless pit, adding that the so-called guidelines for gene-editing and extreme GMOs are dangerous and needless — just as the permission of GMOs has always been in Nigeria.
The Executive Director pointed out that the flagship biotech laboratory in the country is in a temporary cabin, stressing that the country does not need to add risky technologies that clearly pose a security threat to the people and environment.
Bassey added: “It is time for us to recognize the facts of our best interests and support agroecology, smallholder farmers and provide their basic needs including infrastructure, storage/processing facilities and extension services. It is time to halt and completely overhaul the biosafety architecture in Nigeria and invest resources towards ensuring that our farmers get out of poverty and hunger and do what they have always done and struggle to continue to do.
He, therefore, stressed the need to strengthen 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 cannot be overemphasized.
Also, the Minister of State Environment, Ms. Sharon Ikeazor, said that the Nigeria Biosafety system is one of the best in the world and was biosafety system was legalised in 2015
The minister who was represented by the Director General of NBMA, Mr. Rufus Ebegba, insisted that the fruits and food in the markets are not genetically modified, but said they are hybrid or improved.
Ikeazor noted that NBMA is competent to regulate the Biosafety sector, while adding that gene editing guidelines have been thoroughly designed by experts.
On his part, Mr. Ifeanyi Nwankwere, said there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs at the moment.
Also, Ms. Joyce Ebebeinwe, said during the survey which was carried out in Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, Uyo, Port Harcourt And 10 supermarkets were visited in each city.
“The impact of the consumption may not be immediate but the impact may manifest in our internal organs.”