By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- A coalition of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, yesterday, alleged that moves were made by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, to introduce Genetically Modified Cassava in Nigeria.
The CSOs numbering 87 representing over 5 million Nigerians, which include Health for Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, AFSA, and Nigerians against GMOs raised the alarm in a statement signed by Biosafety Project Officer, HOMEF, Joyce Okeoghene.
They argued that the proposed and confined trials of the novel cassava GMO demanded that the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, should not consider the application, and urged it to direct IITA to carry out the test in Switzerland where the Cassava GMO was developed.
According to them plans to take total control of Nigeria’s food system have been moving rapidly on the genetically engineered organisms, GMOs, highway, whereby the list of GMOs being pushed in Nigeria include beans, maize and cotton.
Adding that recently IITA have teamed up with ETHZ laboratories of Zurich Switzerland to apply to carry out confined field trial in Nigeria of cassava genetically modified to ‘obtain storage roots with lower post-harvest physiological degradation after harvest (thanks to pruning) without any loss of the nutritious starch’.
Also that IITA’s application to conduct ‘confined’ field trials of the Genetically Modified Cassava, which the institute wants to use a new gene silencing technology that has never been tested before, and IITA admitted that such an approval has not been given for this GMO cassava anywhere in any ‘jurisdiction’ in the world.
Making their position known the Director, HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, said if the NBMA approves IITA’s application food safety would be a forgotten issue in the country.
Bassey said: “The IITA has been a respected institution in Nigeria and Africa on whom farmers depend for good quality and safe crops. Now they have decided to drive on the GMO road, Nigerian and African agriculture face a mortal danger. If NBMA approves this application, we can as well say good bye to food safety in Nigeria.
“Even if the IITA presents the Frankenstein cassava as a crop for the production of biofuel and not food, there is no way to stop our farmers from planting the GMO cassava for food. We call on the NBMA to do the needful and reject this application outright. We don’t need GMO cassava. We don’t need GMOs.”
Also in the statement the Chairman of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, AFSA, Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, asserted that biotech giants have not been clear on their development of bio-fuel in Africa, rather have hid under it to promote GMOs
“Promoting GM crops for biofuels demonstrates the hypocrisy of the biotech giants, who are always quick to summit that GM crops are necessary to produce more food for the growing world population.
“They make the case that relying only on natural crop varieties would create food deficits and lead to forests being cleared for cultivation, to meet rising food demand. Yet, the same companies think nothing of diverting large areas of arable land for cultivation of crops to develop ethanol for fuel, to feed the voracious machines of the North.”
In his remarks as contained in the statement the convener, Nigeria Against GMOs, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, expressed worry over the alleged move by IITA and said that, “If IITA is tired of serving the needs of Nigeria and Africans as they have done in the past, they may as well take their business elsewhere. How can we ever trust them any longer with this extremely dangerous path they are taking?”