- Petitions Sanwo-Olu, Nine Other Governors
- Wants NBMA Act Repealed
Farmers, professionals and Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance have called on federal government and sub-nationals to place an outright ban on the importation and local production of products with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
Members of the coalition led by Mother of Earth Foundation (HOMEF) stormed the Lagos seat of power –Alausa-Ikeja, Tuesday to decry the unrestrained release of GMO-oriented products into the country’s food market and its attending effects on Nigerians’ food consumption, culture and health.
While pressing home their demands, the GMO-Free Nigeria campaigners displaying various placards which read: ‘Nigerians Say No To GMO’; ‘Food Not Poison’; ‘Biotech Industry Hands Off Our Food’; ‘Review NBMA Law Now!’; MONSANTO’s Seeds Of Death, Ban GMO’ among other strongly-worded captions.
During the rally which held across 10 states in the country, a petition calling for immediate action against GMOs was submitted to Governors of Enugu, Lagos, Edo, Rivers, Katsina, Kano, Bayelsa, Cross River, Benue and FCT authorities.
Speaking with The New Diplomat, Mr Philip Jakpor, Head, Media and Campaign, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) — a member of the coalition — explained that GMOs threaten food security and local food production by farmers as they are products of genetic engineering which allows scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes at the cellular levels in a way that is not possible naturally or traditionally for small-holders farmers to achieve.
“Small scale farmers produce the bulk of the food we consume and the system of agriculture which allows them save, share and reuse seeds is being threatened by the introduction of GMOs into our country,” Jakpor said.
The New Diplomat recently reported that HOMEF had in its survey conducted between 2018 to 2020, revealed that about 30 products with genetically modified ingredients or made from genetic engineering are selling in Nigeria without being approved or authorized by regulatory agencies including the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).
Reacting to the revelation, Jakpor added that “from the investigation carried out by HOMEF and other organisations, farmers have already identified some maize and beans that are GMOs already and how these food products were smuggled into our food systems we dont know.
“The NBMA Act should be reviewed so that the agency can adequately prevent the influx of GMOs into the country. In the US and other developed climes where you have GMO products they’re labelled so that people can make their own choices, but unfortunately Nigerians are not given a choice with the kind of products we see on food shelves and in the open market.”
The coalition in a petition delivered to the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu urged Nigerians to embrace Agroecology and shunned GMOs, while also asking the Nigerian government to repeal the Act that set up the NBMA enacted in 2015.
“The Act needs to be repealed as it is flawed with respect to the absence of provisions for strict liability and redress which mandates that the biotechnology corporations take responsibility for immediate and forthcoming negative impacts of the use of their products as is the case in a similar Act in Uganda.” The petition signed by Director, HOMEF, Mr Nnimmo Bassey on behalf of the coalition read in part.
It continued: “Other areas of concern include lack of access to information, poor public consultation and participation, provisions for appeals and reviews, and lack of veritable provisions for the enforcement of the precautionary principle and decision making.
“The NBMA Act confers enormous discretionary powers on the agency and gives little room for oversight. The conflict of interest inherent in the NBMA Act equally raises serious red flags about the administration of biosafety in Nigeria. We have the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) sitting on the board of the NBMA. In 2016, two of the permits issued by NBMA to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited were applied for by the company for events that were to be implemented in partnership with NABDA. Imagine a developer/promoter of GMOs applying for a permit in partnership with a biotech company and sitting to approve the same permit. This is an obvious reason to worry about our biosafety regulatory architecture.”
The GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance, in the petition, listed its 5-point demands to include: “A nullification of the permits issued to for the importation and release of genetically modified maize, beans, cotton into the country. These permits have been issued without regard for the complaints by millions of Nigerians and without the consent of many. Nigerians should not be used as pawns or as guinea pigs in furtherance of blatant commercial interests.
“Close surveillance of our markets and farms to halt illegal entry of GMOs into Nigeria and into our food supply.
“A ban of all toxic agrochemicals – especially glyphosate containing ones identified as probable carcinogens.
“We demand a halt to the assault on our agriculture through genetic modification of our staple crops including cassava. We urge that Nigeria should be circumspect about technologies that aim to contaminate our environment, destroy our agriculture, culture and rupture our socio-economic fabric and assert unbridled controls over our agriculture and foods.
“The government should support Agroecology and provide the needed infrastructure, credit scheme and extension service to enable farmers produce food optimally.”