HarvestPlus Flays Report on GMO Vitamin A Cassava, Maize

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  • No Foreign Gene in crops, organisation insists

Crusoe Osagie

HarvestPlus Nigeria has dismissed as “false and misleading” reports that vitamin A enriched cassava and maize are developed from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), saying not only are the claims erroneous but couched to distract Nigerians from the target of consuming more nutritious staples.

HarvestPlus is an international research-based institution developing and promoting biofortified staple crops to improve human health, nutrition, and provide global leadership on biofortification evidence and technology.

The organisation stressed that the improved crop varieties are developed from conventional breeding methods with the aim of combating hidden hunger and ensuring consumers get maximum value from food and confectionaries.

In a statement in Ibadan signed by its Communication Officer, Ikechukwu Onyewuchi, HarvestPlus maintained that much as vitamin A cassava and maize and their finished products contained improved nutritional value, there was no trace of GMOs in the different varieties of the bio-fortified products it released after due approval from relevant government agencies.
A France-based organisation, Intelicor, had allegedly released a report in which it linked the recent tomato disease outbreak, Tuta absoluta, and the release of biofortified crops, such as vitamin A cassava and maize, as calculated efforts to rid Nigeria of organic food and products, adding that an international agrochemical company, Monsanto, was spearheading efforts to force GMOs on rural and commercial farmers.

But HarvestPlus described the claims as outlandish and inconsistent with facts on the ground, noting that it was regrettable and ignorant that anyone would categorise vitamin A cassava and maize as GMOs.

It pointed out that Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, confirmed that approval for GMOs in Nigeria are restricted to field trials, a move that shows that government is equally keen on protecting Nigerians from harmful GMOs.

Stating that the minister was categorical in her statement, the firm said it was clear that crops approved in the country bore no trace of GMOs and that it firmly believes that the government wouldn’t be a party to any effort to endanger the lives of Nigerians.

The organisation said, “It is unfortunate that anyone would say vitamin A cassava and maize are GMOs. The claims are false and misleading. Anyone who doubts the nutritional content of the crops is welcome to conduct laboratory tests on them to ascertain the presence of foreign genes. All of the varieties that have been released are not only breed conventionally, they are constantly tested to ensure that provide better nutritious value to the poor so as to effectively combat hidden hunger.”

It added that much as the campaign against harmful GMOs was laudable, especially where certain products may raise ethical concerns, activists shouldn’t disparage the effort of those who are genuinely committed to deploying research and conventional farming practice in bettering the lives of people.