The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), has raised fresh alarm over the increasing presence of Genetically Modified (GM) products in the Nigerian market.
According to the group, there is urgent need for a complete overhaul of the biosafety regulations in Nigeria in order to develop the economy and enhance agricultural productivity and food safety.
HOMEF is an ecological think tank organisation advocating for environmental and climate justice as well as food sovereignty in Nigeria and Africa at large.
A GMO is an organism — plant or animal — whose DNA has been modified in the laboratory in order to favour the expression of some desired physiological traits or biological products.
HOMEF made this call at a one-day virtual conference on April 13 in Abuja which had many stakeholders in attendance. According to HOMEF, several dangerous and needless genes are often approved through GMOs in the country, without considering the interest and the safety of the people.
Among those in attendance at the conference convened by the Director of HOMEF, Mr Nnimmo Bassey were; Dr Vandana Shiva of Navyanda International; Ms. Mariam Mayet of African Center for Biodiversity; Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi of the University of Abuja; Barr. Ifeanyi Nwankwere and Ms. Joyce Ebebeinwe of HOMEF.
Speaking at the conference, Ebebeinwe, Programme Manager, HOMEF lamented that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) — the biosafety regulatory body in Nigeria — is not doing enough to reject some modern agricultural biotechnology. She noted that several GMO products are often approved by the NBMA, without considering the negative impact of such products on the people and environment.
Mayet, in her speech, urged the government to support farmers with seeds and lands as many farmers in Nigeria and Africa at large are only struggling to survive.
HOMEF also disclosed that a survey conducted between 2018 to 2020 showed that about 30 products with genetically modified ingredients or made from genetic engineering are selling in Nigeria without being approved or authorized
The conference also stated that the biosafety of Nigeria is at risk with the establishment of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) since it was not backed by any law or agency to regulate its activities.
The NABDA, was established in 2001, to implement the policy that is aimed at promoting, coordinating and setting research and development in biotechnology for Nigeria.
It was recommended at the conference that “there should be a total overhaul of the Biosafery regulatory architecture in Nigeria as the gaps and flaws in the current NMBA Act of 2015 and as amended in 2019 are overwhelming.”
It was also resolved at the conference that the introduction of GMOs in Nigeria should be stopped to give room for cultivation of natural seeds.
The conference also called on the government at all levels to support farmers in the country with adequate storage and processing facilities. Also, the conference recommended the establishment of a wider market range for farmers to sell their products.
HOMEF also called on the government to establish community seed banks across the country, in order to preserve the indigenous natural seeds.