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Group express worry over release of Bt Cowpea, Bt Cotton seeds in 2018

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ABUJA- A group called Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, has expressed worry over the proposed release of Bt Cowpea and Bt Cotton seeds before the end of 2018 in Nigeria.

Reacting to the move, Director, HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, in a statement signed by Biosafety Project Officer, HOMEF, Joyce Ebebeinwe, raised concerns over the move alleged by the National Biotechnology Development Agency, NABDA, announcing that these products will soon be to farmers.

According to Bassey, there is no guarantee given by the agency about the environmental and health safety of the beans and cotton to be released by the end of 2018.

Being an anti-GMO crusader he maintained that there were serious challenges GMOs pose in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune dysfunction and genetic disorders, therefore cautioned that Nigeria adopts precautionary principle based on strict measures to be applied and alleged that there were threats of irreversible damage and lack of full scientific certainty by the technology.

While HOMEF commends the action of the federal government in establishing the Food Security Council, the group insists that it is pertinent that action is taken to ensure that foods are indeed safe.

He said: “While Nigerians face uncertainties over food security due to incessant herders-farmers clashes, another threat is dawning on the nation without much notice.

“The fact that President Muhammadu Buhari just inaugurated a Food Security Council underscores the centrality of food security to the country. However, without food safety there cannot be food security.

“On the 22nd of March, 2018, the country coordinator for Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) and National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) chieftain, Dr Rose Gidado, stated in an interview with newsmen in Abuja that “Before the end of 2018, Bt Cowpea and Bt Cotton as biotechnology products in Nigeria would be in market.”

“Our concerns with regard to this announcement and these products soon to be unleashed on an unsuspecting Nigerian public we have seen that there is no guarantee about the environmental and health safety of the beans and cotton to be released by the end of 2018.

“The OFAB/NABDA officer stated that, “The pesticide tolerant cowpea will allow for a reduced use of pesticide”. It is well known that pests have developed resistance to the Bt toxins and this resistance leads to an increased use of toxic chemicals which increases the damage to the environment.”

According to the HOMEF boss the way to improve economic situation for farmers is to invest in organic agriculture, provide farmers with extension services, needed infrastructure, good roads and access to land and loans including support for farmers, which is to invest in research and exploration of agroecology approach to the problems of pests and diseases.

Similarly, Chairperson, the African Food Sovereignty Alliance, AFSA, Mariann Orovwuje, argued that Bt crops will not add value to the economy, rather there will be forced dependence on seed companies.

“Bt crops and other GM foods will not help Nigeria’s economy as the supporters of the technology allege. Rather, there will be forced dependence on corporate bodies for seeds. Farmers will have no right to reuse their seeds and agricultural production will be left in the hands of large scale industrial investors.

“The National Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, in June 2017 revealed that 24 export products from Nigeria were rejected by the European Union, EU, in the year 2016 for failing to meet standards”, she stated.

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