Group hails NASS on probe of GMOs in Nigeria

Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and the GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance have commended the House of Representatives on its resolution to investigate the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into Nigeria. This is just as it called for a halt on approval of new products pending the completion of the investigation.

This resolution is reported to have followed the adoption of the motion by Rep. Muktar Shagaya at a plenary session.

The group noted in a press statem not that the investigation which was long overdue is  vital  to save the country from the dangerous path to food colonialism, contamination of Nigeria genetic resources, loss of biodiversity/nutritional diversity, soil degradation, and overall disruption of our agriculture and food systems.

The group said othe introduction of GMOs in Nigeria raises serious concerns about safety, regulatory oversight, and their potential impacts on the country’s biosafety.

According to the Executive Director of HOMEF, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, “This investigation must be unbiased and thorough. To ensure this, the National Assembly should engage independent researchers to avoid contamination of the process by GMO promoters. This investigation should consider Nigeria’s agricultural landscape and investigate the underlying causes of hunger/food insecurity and as well establish definite measures to address those issues. This is the time to rescue Nigerians from being used for risky experimentations.

“Also key at this time, is the need to critically examine the National Biosafety Management Agency Act for its fitness for purpose.

Also, the Food Sovereignty Activist and Deputy Executive Director at Friends of the Earth Nigeria; Bar. Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, said, the “law needs to be completely reworked to close existing loopholes including the composition of its governing/decision making board by excluding GMO promoters such as the National Biotechnology Development Agency; the lack of provision on strict liability, inadequate public consultation measures, absolute decision-making powers of the agency, minimal reference to the precautionary principle and many others,” he said.

The House of Representatives also urged the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control  (NAFDAC) to ensure labeling of GM crops already in the country.

HOMEF’s Director of Programmes and Lead on Hunger Politics, Joyce Brown noted that the Agency will need to devise strategies to have foods sold in local markets in basins, by the road sides, and in processed forms and appropriately labeled to ensure informed decision-making by the people who purchase food from these sources.

“This exercise will prove that GMOs do not fit our socio-economic context. Over the years, market shelf surveys conducted by HOMEF have revealed over 50 different processed/packaged foods labeled as produced using genetically modified ingredients. The survey has also revealed that the majority of our people do not read labels,” she said.

Brown further called for the suspension of permits for commercialisation of Bt Cowpea, Tela Maize, Bt Corn and all other GMOs pending the conclusion of investigation by the House Committee on Agriculture and others.

The statement reaffirmed the submission by Rep. Muktar Shagaya that there is a need to prioritise public health, biodiversity, increased support of small holder farmers in terms of extension service, provision of infrastructure (to curtail waste), access to credits, access to land and the growth of our local economy.

HOMEF urged Nigerians to adopt agroecological farming which aligns well with Nigeria’s socio economic and socio cultural context.