By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE Health for Mother Health Foundation, HOMEF, has raised concern over some companies allegedly importing Genetically Modified Organisms, GMO, foods into the country.
The concern was raised by the Director, HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, while speaking on the necessity of reviewing the National Biosafety Act, for protection of the lives of Nigerians and the agriculture sector.
Bassey who expressed dismay over the manner in which the illegally and unauthorized importation of genetically modified maize worth about $9.8 million that was impounded at Lagos sea ports from Argentina, the country of origin was handled.
According to him barely a week after the NBMA announced that together with the Nigerian Customs Service they would ensure the repatriation of the illegal GM maize, the same NBMA issued a public advertisement announcing the application for importation of GM maize by WACOT Ltd, described it as mere noise and hope dashing.
He also alleged that the purported application of WACOT Ltd has since been approved by NBMA and the applicant may have received the green light to take delivery of the impounded illegal import and to further import genetically modified maize at will into Nigeria over the next three years.
He said: “One of the cases with grave implications for biosafety administration in Nigeria is the one that hit headline news in October 2017 that unauthorised genetically modified maize worth about $9.8 million had been impounded at Lagos sea ports.
“Nigerians were elated by the vigilance of the regulatory agency and officers of the Nigerian Customs Service to intercept the illegal imports by WACOT Ltd – a firm that is best known for dealing in cotton and rice.
“Another company implicated in the illegal importation of the GM maize is the Olam Group, a conglomerate that deals mostly in rice, including the widely sold Mama’s Pride brand.”
However, he called on the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, to step up and protect the lives of the people based on their mandate, as there have been biosafety infringements especially by some companies importing GM foods into the country.
According to the HOMEF boss, the Director General, NBMA, stated at a press conference held in Abuja on September 13, 2017 that the Agency got notice of the importation through an intelligence report and had set in motion necessary machineries to track the importers and bring them to book.
He also quoted that according to the NBMA Act 2015, ‘Any person, institution or body who wishes to import, export, transit or otherwise carry out a contained field trial, multi-locational trial or commercial release of genetically modified organism shall apply to the Director General of the Agency not less than 270 days to the date of import, export, transit or the commencement of such activity’.
“Barely a week after the NBMA announced that together with the Nigerian Customs Service they would ensure the repatriation of the illegal GM maize, the same NBMA issued a public advertisement announcing the application for importation of GM maize by WACOT Ltd.
“Some of us have on many occasions called for a radical review of the NBMA Act 2015. We have also made a clause-by-clause analysis of the Act and suggested needed changes”, he stated.