Farmers, professionals and Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance have raised alarm over the provisions in the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill, calling for an urgent overhaul of biosafety in the country.
Members of the coalition worry that provisions in the assented bill might stifle the rights of small holder farmers in the country.
This much was said at a press briefing in Lagos, Wednesday, convened by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), We the People and Environmental Rights Action- Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN)
HOMEF, a member of the coalition had in May raised alarm over the passage of the PVP Bill by the Senate, saying that the bill spells disaster for the agriculture and farming systems in the country.
HOMEF Programme Manager, Ms. Joyce Brown said: “Although the proponents of the bill insist that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will not creep into the food system as part of the new plants varieties, there are provisions in it which highlights the contrary. For example Clause 9 establishes a PVP Advisory Committee which includes known GMO promoters such as the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and the biosafety regulatory agency, NBMA. The bill makes no space for civil society representation and none for smallholder farmers except where it mentions “the registered farmers’ association.” which suggests that the registered farmers’ association is already known to the drafters of the Bill.”
The PVP bill which was passed into law by the Senate on March 3 seeks to protect seed breeders and farmers in the country by giving them intellectual property over a new plant variety with exclusive rights to commercialise seed.
President Buhari had in May signed the PVP 2021 into law, saying that the bill will create a window for the protection of plant varieties in Nigeria.
However, the coalition decried the provisions of the bill, noting that the bill was hurriedly developed and assented to.
HOMEF in its report released in April had revealed that a market 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.
Citing one of the products, the coalition stated that a genetically modified Cowpea (beans) is currently being distributed to Nigerian farmers.
According to the coalition, beans which will be distributed to up to 8 million Nigerian farmers contains a (Cry1Ab) gene which was developed by Monsanto/Bayer and has been shown to have toxic effects on human liver cells.
However, the coalition recommended that “the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act 2015 and as amended in 2019 should be urgently reviewed to close the existing gaps and to ensure it protects the interests of the Nigerian people.”
It also recommended that “permits already granted for importation and use of GMOs in Nigeria should be withdrawn to avert the intended and unintended implications for our health, environment and economy.”