By Ernest Chinwo
A non-governmental organisation, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), has raised the alarm over the influx of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) crops and foods in the country, alleging connivance of the government.
It said government was not only endangering the lives of the people as could be seen in the increase in some non-communicable diseases, but also in the loss of some traditional crops that promote food security and safety.
Declaring open a workshop for journalists in Rivers State on the promotion of bio-safety in Nigeria organised by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), the Executive Director of the NGO, Nnimmo Bassey, lamented that the hunger in most parts of the world, including Nigeria, was not only due to insufficient foodstuff but the difficulty in accessing the food in the rural areas.
He said in most parts of Nigeria, the roads to where most of the foodstuffs are produced are impassable, making it difficult for farmers to bring their produce to where they could be sold.
Bassey added: “Food safety is a challenge facing us as regards what to eat. There is need for people to have access to good food. We want food to be seen as life and culture and not as commodity.
“The problem facing us as regards food is that there is no access road to move food from rural communities to the cities. The few that try would increase their prices.
“There is also the problem of storage facilities, processing facilities, and absence of fair pricing are reasons foods from villages hardly get to the cities.
“People are not hungry because there is no food to eat, but over 30 per cent of food goes waste and most used for industrial purposes.”
He, therefore, debunked the argument that genetically modified crops and foods would increase food production, adding that they rather negatively impact the health of the citizenry.
He stated that genetically modified (GM) crops are developed mainly by agrochemical firms who focus on herbicide-tolerant or pesticidal crops which ultimately were injurious to the people and the environment.
He also added that the GM crops are usually patented by the companies that produce them and destroy seed-saving, which also reduces self-reliance as local seeds are destroyed.
He also added that most people consume GM crops without knowing as the labelling of consumables do not work in the country, and even when some canned foods are labelled, most people do not read the labels.
In his presentation titled: ‘Genetically Modified Organisms and their Implication for Nigeria,” an expert on Medical/Molecular Microbiology of the University of Abuja, Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi, accused the Nigerian government of adopting and supporting the introduction of GM foods and crops into the country, through the speedy approvals given to firms bringing the products into the country.
He said: Production and distribution of GMOs and products containing GMOs are increasing in the world, especially Nigeria. Today, GM technology was being utilised in Nigeria to develop cowpea, a crop grown predominantly by poor men and women.
“Poor farmers using GM crops will ultimately be forced to begin to buy patented seeds resulting in loss of control over conventional seeds for all farmers but decreasing farmers control over production even further. It can increase food insecurity.
“GMOs are just technology and not food system. As a technology, it must be used in a systematic manner. Surreptitiously, Nigerian government is adopting GMOs. If they are not supporting it, then, why the speedy approvals for GM food in the last four years?”
He stated: “There is a growing body of evidence connecting GMOs with health issues, environmental damage, and even violations of consumers’ and farmers’ rights.”