Coalition protesting against GMOs in Nigeria, in Port Harcourt
From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A coalition of Non Governmental Organisations, yesterday had a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, seeking that the government should ban genetically modified crops in Nigeria to repeal the National Biosafety Management Agency Act.
The coalition led by GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance and Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF,) while noting the efforts of the federal and state government in the promotion of agriculture in the country, insisted that Nigeria does not need GMOs, adding that Research has shown that GMOs do not give higher yields and are not more nutritious than normal crops.
The protesters including, farmers, youths, women, scientists, medical practitioners, lawyers, civil society organisations and other Nigerians maintained they food and agricultural systems are being threatened by the unrestrained release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the country, Nigeria.
In a letter addressed to the Rivers State Ministry of Environment and signed by Rev Nnimmo Bassey, Director, it stated that Nigerians are consuming foods bought from the market shelves without any idea that they are made from the genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The letter further called for the nullification of the permits issued to for the importation and release of genetically modified maize, beans, cotton into the country.
“We are concerned about aspects that would scuttle these efforts and push our people into acute food insecurity in the long term. These concerns are highlighted in the report on the State of Biosafety in Nigeria which was launched by HOMEF on 13 April 2021. One of such concerns is that several permits have been granted for introduction of GMOs into the country by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).
“These approvals have been granted without consideration for the concerns raised by stakeholders. Also, a market survey on GMOs carried out between 2018 and 2020 have revealed the presence of over 30 different products that are labelled as containing genetically modified ingredients even though the Agency continuously says that there are no GMOs in the Nigerian market.
“We demand a ban on GMOs and a repeal of the National Biosafety Management Agency Act which came into force in the year 2015 and was reviewed in 2019 to include emerging and even more contentious aspects of extremely risky modern biotechnology.GMOs are products of genetic engineering which is a technology that allows scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes at the cellular level in a way that is not possible via traditional or natural processes. It allows DNA from one type of organism to be introduced into another related or unrelated species.
“Nigeria does not need GMOs. They are promoted on false premises. Research has shown that GMOs do not give higher yields and are not more nutritious than normal crops. They do not use less herbicides and pesticides. With the many problems we are contending with as a nation, GMOs should not be allowed to compound our situation. We must not accept a technology simply because it is available. We must as a people determine what is good for us.
“We should address the root causes of the challenges of food production including those of pest and disease. We should invest in in an agricultural system such as Agroecology which promotes soil health and biodiversity and ensures collaborative research and innovations with farmers with increased/sustained production of healthy and nutritious food.
“Farmers should be provided with needed infrastructure, extension service, access to land and credit schemes and good road-market networks”.
Also speaking during the protest, Kentabe Ebirador, a representative of Environmental Rights Action and Coordinator, OilWatch International, stressed that the banning of the GMOs will enhance increase in local farming system.
He said “The protest is looking at calling on the government for the urgent ban on genetically modified foods in our system, in our stable firms and also the banning of the GMOs increases the chances of our local farmers to be able to use organic means of farming to feed the country.
“The Nigerian government is gradually relying on GMOs as an alternative for increasing the food system but we are saying that Nigeria can feed ourselves and we don’t need any GMO.
“Looking at it from the other angle, if you look at the cleanup going on in Ogonilamd, the possibility of livelihood looked at and the fact that there will be rumours, stories that will come up to say that since the land is being worked on there is every tendency, every possibility that improved seedlings will be introduced as regards to say that will work with the soil to increase yield but that is a lie”.
However, the group had pledged readiness to work with the government to ensure that our people, the environment and the future of the Nigerian food are protected and preserved against the threats posed by the vested interest of biotechnology companies and their cronies”.