Dangers of genetically modified crops to Nigeria part 2
This brings us to the Nigerian context. In the hinterlands where most farming in Nigeria happens, Nigerian citizens are not served water by a water corporation who consistently tests the quality of water. They go to the streams or fetch water from wells. Does the Nigerian government plan for its citizens to drink from poisoned streams and water tables?
A case study is the recent outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil, which coincided with the spread of the Zika virus, a condition in which babies are born with unusually tiny heads. Recently, several scientists have asserted that a toxic larvicide, Pyriproxyfen is most likely the root cause. Others have said it could be a combination of factors such as the introduction of GMO mosquitoes to the area, the use of larvicide and the presence of the zika virus. These assertions serve to highlight the dynamic interactions that occur in nature and the potential disastrous effects they can have.
Despite several empirical evidence and calls from the world’s leading scientists linking GMOs to diseases such as cancer, reproductive failure, stunted growth, and birth defects as seen in Argentina and many other places, Nigerian Ministry of Agriculture in tandem with NABDA have labeled these calls ‘anti-science’ and ‘uninformed’ because the producers of these products have told them that their products are safe.
In the words of David Schubert, Professor and Head of Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies, La Jolla, California:
“One thing that surprised us is that U.S. regulators rely almost exclusively on information provided by the biotech crop developer, and those data are not published in journals or subjected to peer review… The picture that emerges from our study of U.S. regulation of GM foods is a rubber-stamp ‘approval process’ designed to increase public confidence in, but not ensure the safety of, genetically engineered foods.”
NABDA/NABMA has been created to mimic the FDA in America, for the sole aim of ‘the regulated’ controlling the regulatory process to ensure the easy approval of GMOs without rigorous assessment of health or environmental risks.
“Monsanto should not have to vouch for the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications, quoted in the New York Times, October 25, 1998.
The clear import of the above is that there is no coherent or conclusive body of evidence to guarantee the safety and sanctity of GMO foods as fit for human consumption. Why the Nigerian authorities should give legislative approval to what could be termed as “junk science” is a baffling reality to all of us.
Furthermore, there is the issue of freedom of choice. Does the Nigerian citizen not have the right to know if the foods they eat have been modified in the lab? Would these products be labelled as GMOs or will that right of choice also be taken away from the Nigerian citizens? Can we envision people buying a labelled cup of GMO cow peas from the market? Would market sellers label these products truthfully?
Mr. President, The world is becoming health conscious; the demand for natural and unprocessed foods is at an all time high, in part to stem the rise in diseases linked to processed foods and GMOs. As president, you are undoubtedly aware of the current state of our health care system and infrastructure. Is it fair to expose our people to such a technology, knowing full well that more developed countries with better healthcare systems and independent research capacity have chosen to protect the health of their citizens as well as their environment?
Does Nigeria need this new wave of colonisation of our food system, empowered by patent laws and control of seeds which produce sterile offspring? Does Nigeria need this new layer of dependency?
Mr. President, are you aware that these foreign corporations seize intellectual property rights to African seeds, in effect attempting the theft of the entire agricultural base of all the countries in Africa? It would seem like a flashback to the colonial era, during which everyone but us knew the value of our resources and these same nations we go to ask for AID today, built their wealth on our ignorance of the value of our resources.
President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia in his speech at the State Opening of the National Assembly for the 2015 legislative year said:“(Gambia) will never accept GM food.”“I must emphasize here that despite our obsession with becoming a major food exporter after 2016, we will never accept genetically Modified Organisms in our agriculture. The Gambia is strictly maintaining organic agriculture for both our consumption and export.
Nigeria can take a cue from The Gambia and become a major exporter of organic food, taking advantage of the global demand for natural organic food whose value is about three times the value of GMOs.
History and Legacy
In this age of information, knowledge is at our finger tips; we see the actions of Presidents prioritising the health and welfare of their citizens over corporate interests. We see the move towards healthy living as witnessed by the rising organic food consumption. Just as glyphosate has been officially declared a carcinogen by the WHO, just as DDT was declared a poison, eventually the world will come to terms with this technology, history would say President Goodluck signed the bill but President Buhari presided over the poisoning of his people and the colonisation of their agricultural system, if nothing is done to halt this clear and present danger.
• The authors, members of the Working Committee, Nigerians Against GMO, wrote this as an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Agriculture Chief Audu Ogbeh.
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