Genetically Modified Food: FG Urged to Repeal Biosafety Law

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
A body under the auspices of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has called for the repeal of the Act setting up the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), saying that the process that led to the passage of the bill and its eventual signing into law ‎was trailed by controversies and complaints from key stakeholders.

It also called for the revocation of the permit issued to an American company, Monsanto for the introduction of Genetically Modified Food in the country, saying GM foods are not safe for consumption.
The Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey made the call in Abuja, where he noted that the permit granted to Monsanto by NBMA was issued on Sunday, May 2nd, 2016, a day government office does not open, and as it was a public holiday.

Buttressing his point, he said the, “Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague has released its findings. They show starkly that Monsanto’s activities undermine basic human rights and that victims of multinational corporations need better protective regulations. The Tribunal also holds that international courts should recognise ecocide as a crime. Read the full press release from Seed Freedom.”

According to him, “We are calling on the government of Nigeria to revoke the permit given to Monsanto, repeal the National Biosafety Act 2015. These are the two key demands that we are making. The NBMA Act of 2015 was signed into law in the twilight ‎of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan in spite of far-reaching importance biosafety matters to the citizens of Nigeria.”
Bassey added: “The process that led to the passage of the bill and its eventual signing into law ‎was trailed by controversies and complaints from key stakeholders including farmers, consumers and civil society groups.”

He expressed regret that with the coming of this Act, the issue of who regulates this critical sector has become very worrisome because public officials and agencies that should be impartial umpires to secure the safety of the people and the environment by ensuring sufficient safeguards are the persons and entities promoting the opening of our environment to GMOs and related toxic chemicals with little regard to the precautionary principles.

Bassey also emphasised that Nigerians have also expressed serious doubt about how equipped is NBMA to dabble ‎so impetuously into GMOs approval in less than a year of its existence.
“The NBMA Act has a lot of gaps and appears to have being drafted solely to set up the agency ‎as the name itself implies. Enormous amounts of discretionary powers ‎ have been vested in the agency with not enough mandatory duties in the operational provisions ‎ to ensure that the agency perform a stewardship role to ensure that GMOs do not pose harm to human and animal health, society and environment;

“The Act does not have any clarity‎ about how this agency is subject to oversight by the parent ministry -the Ministry of Environment. Besides the lack of illegals in the drafting of the law, some provisions do not make sense at all; and in other places references are‎ made to incorrect sections and to non-existence sections,” Bassey noted.

Continuing he stressed that the Act particularly require reworking in the following areas: Access to information, the composition of the governing board is arbitrary and populated with GMO promoter, public consultation and participation, Liability and redress, Labelling and right to know; Decision making, Appeals and reviews, conflict of interest‎ and issues of precautionary principles.