Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Coalition of Civil Society Organisations recently protested against the release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the Nigerian markets, while also accusing the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) of prioritising money over the health of Nigerians.
The coalition also called for the nullification of the permits already granted by the biosafety agency for dealings with genetically modified products in Nigeria.
The coalition which comprises Health of Mother Heart Foundation (HOMEF), Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Food Sovereignty Coordinator Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Africa, GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance and Bio-Integrity and Natural Food Awareness Initiative, said Nigeria should be circumspect about technologies that aim to contaminate the natural varieties.
The protesters carried various placards such as; ‘GMOs not on our plate, Ban it; ‘Stop the contamination, Ban GMOs; ‘Silence is Betrayal, say no to GMOs; ‘Food should not be grown in laboratory; ‘No to gene drive, Nigerians reject GMOs’, among others.
Speaking, the Executive Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo BASSEY, said that GMOs have found their way into the country either as illegally imported products or with the approval of the NBMA.
According to him, “a recent market survey varied out in 10 Nigerian cities by HOMEF confirms the presence of over 30 imported products, most of which were cereals and vegetable oils of generic engineering in our market shelves.”
He lamented that NBMA approved nearly every application brought to it without proper safety assessments, due consideration of public opinion or the impact of proposed activities or of the concerns raised by the public.
Bassey stated, “the agency promoting GMOs are doing it without any sort of control. The agency sees itself as a revenue generating agency.
“They are more concerned about the fees for application and if you want a fast track consideration for your application, the pay is slightly higher, this shows that this is a commercial entity.
“When you listen to the leaders too, you will see that they speaking from the both sides of the mouth. We don’t have the assurance that they are protecting our environment, that they are concerned about our health and that they are really have the best interest of Nigerians at heart.”
The coalition therefore called for a halt to the assault on the country’s agriculture through genetic modification of staple crops and a halt on negotiations towards adoption of gene drives.
Meanwhile, African women farmers under the aegis of Kilimanjaro Women Initiative have called on African Head of States to urgently reduce the influence of GMOs on rural women farmers’ agro process.
The rural women farmers also decried the negative effects of GMOs on the land and health of women farmers.
A member of the Kilimanjaro women steering committee, Ms. Tiwonge Gondwe, while reading the communique at the end of a-two meeting of the second anniversary of the Kilimanjaro initiative held in Abuja and organised by Oxfam Nigeria, International Land Coalition, Action Aid and Women in Law and Development in Africa, decried lack of access to local and international market.
She also lamented inadequate political will of government in African regions to invest and provide rural women farmers with gender friendly infrastructure and equipment.
Also, the Chairperson of Kilimanjaro Women steering committee, Mrs. Ejim Lovelyn, explained that GMO seed contaminates the land, adding that you can’t plant any organic seed again on a land where you have planted GMOs.
She said, “Any soil that you plant any GMO seed, no matter what you do, you cannot repeat that same seed again on that land. If you plant it once, the life span has gone. You cannot replant it and for us it is not good. Again, you cannot plant any other organic seed there again because GMOs contaminate the soil.
On health implications, Ejim said, that “it has been proven to be cancerous and most of the times, the post harvest loss we use to have is as a result GMO seed because our indigenous seed suffers a lot. So, most of the times post harvest loss over weighs what you feel you have gained.”