Following the Senate’s stands that genetically-modified organisms, GMOs, be thorough regulated, rights group have applauded the lawmakers for considering a bill to review the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act “in the overall interest of protecting food safety and public interests in Nigeria”.

The groups including GMO-Free Nigeria, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and others.

In his reaction, Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF, said “this is a huge milestone towards defending the rights of Nigerian citizens to safe food and environment.

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“It is a step in the right direction for consumers and especially for small holder farmers who are directly impacted by GMOs and associated chemicals, and yet have little or no knowledge or choice about the entry of these unnatural varieties into our food system or of their potential risks.”

Nnimmo Bassey added that promoting food safety and security/sovereignty is a mandate that rests not just on the Biosafety Management Agency, but also on the entire public and thus public opinion must be duly considered in decision making processes concerning GMOs.

Food Farms News had reported that the presenter of the bill, the Senate Leader, Dr Yahaya Abdullahi stressed why the Bill for the Amendment of the National Biosafety Management Act (NBMA) must be supported for more diligent legislation that would make our country zero tolerant to any hazardous product as related to GMOs, saying our soils and the good health of Nigerians must be well protected with eco-friendly environment.

Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, while congratulating the Senate for this bold step, said, “We strongly believe that scientific integrity and social responsibility and accountability are not negotiable, and no technology should be exempted from these values.”

He went on to say that those saddled with the duty of protecting our food must look away from the industrial yield-output paradigm and adopt a more integrated, systems approach to food and agriculture that takes into consideration many factors, including local food security and sovereignty.

The Group lauded the decision by the Senate, presided over by Senate President Ahmad Lawan, supported by majority of the Senators in passing of the Second Reading of the Bill for an Amendment of the NBMA 2015 and other Related Matters of 2022, for a more diligent and integrity test of GMOs.

For Barrister Chima Williams, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, “GMOs are regulated because their safety is not guaranteed.

“There are good reasons why in Europe robust regulatory mechanisms are in place for GM food and GM crops. GMOS are not the same as natural varieties and they are also not substantially equivalent.

“If they were indeed one and the same thing, as the GMOs proponents claim, why are they modifying them and why have patents on them?

“The claim of substantial equivalence as touted by the promoters of the technology, is an industry get-out tactic to avoid the rigour of proper assessment and regulation.”

Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, the Coordinator for Food Sovereignty Program for Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Africa and the Chair of the Agroecology and Land Working Group of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) said: “There is enough reasons to hold back on commercialising GM crops in Nigeria.”

She urged that the Senate subject all the GMO crops and food approved into our environment to an independent, transparent, environmental, social and health impact evaluations.

She said as a matter of urgency they should be subjected to stringent regulatory scrutiny, and they would know that the Groups concerns about them were justified.

The Groups said they have valid concerns about GMOs, and they have compelling and cogent reasons to support their views even though they are constantly being vilified by the promoters of the GM technology.

According to the Group, instead of engaging in open and honest debate, they have seen some scientists and promoters of the failed GM technology hardening their positions, lashing out at critics, and forwarding personal opinions or parroting corporate opinions and agenda.

The group retorted “We refused to be swayed by industry-inspired lobbying and spin and mere rhetoric designed to shut off debates.”

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