By Agbonkhese Oboh
RENOWNED environmental rights activist and cleric, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, has said Nigeria is not ready for Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, given the poor health sector and non-effective regulatory system.
Bassey, the Director of Home of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, made the declaration at a one-day workshop on “Promoting Nigeria’s Biosafety Media Training” for journalists in Lagos, noting that why small scale farmers leave the soil enriched, GMO products destroy it, endanger the health of consumers and negatively impact on the ecosystem.
Speaking on “Is Nigeria Ready for the Emerging Technologies—Gene Drives, Synthetic Biology?” Bassey said: “80% of food in the world is produced by small scale farmers using 26% of the resources. So what we need in Nigeria is not synthetic food, but protection of, and aids for farmers.
“Also, the National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015 needs to be reviewed to prioritise the precautionary principle, strengthen public participation and include strict provision for liability and redress.”
He noted that Burkina Faso rejected genetically-modified cotton, as it had led to a drop in yield, and instituted an $83.91 million-dollar suit against the United States of America-based seed company, which already has over 18,000 suits against it, adding “ironically, these GMO cotton seeds are now in Nigeria.”
Bassey ended his presentation by pointing out that a United Nations, UN, and World Bank-sponsored sponsored three-year research saw 400 development experts releasing a report in 2008, which declared that the future of food for the world depends on small-scale farmers.
What journalists can do
While coordination group discussion on “Promoting Biosafety in Nigeria: Way Forward and Role of Journalists,” Deputy Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action, ERA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said journalists need to be professional in GMOs reports, as the multinationals involved have succeeded in influencing news reports in their favour.
According to him, “there are no policies or regulations, neither is the socio-cultural environment appropriate to welcome GMOs in Nigeria. For instance, most of the biscuits we eat in this country have been banned in other countries.
“Furthermore, the GMO consumables we have here do not carry the appropriate labels. So how do you recognize akara made from GMO beans?”
Other resource person at the training include Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, “Genetically-Modified Organisms, GMOs, and their Implications;” Ifeanyi Nwankwere, “Biosafety in Nigeria: The Act, Regulation and the Challenges,” and Joyce Ebebeinwe, “Alternative: Agroecology as a Viable Solution for the Food and Climate Challenges.”