The demand for humans to stop consuming genetically modified foods has resumed.
Now, a coalition of civil societies under the aegis of GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance and the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) on Thursday called for the urgent ban of genetic modification of food crops and animals due to its negative impact on agriculture and alteration of the ecosystem.
They also demanded the repeal of the National Bio-safety Management Agency Act (NBMA) due to enormous discretionary powers conferred on the agency and little room for oversight.
Displaying placards with inscriptions such as “No to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Our food our life”, the group, in a peaceful rally, marched round the city center in Benin and submitted a petition to the Edo State Ministry of Environment and Sustainability.
Presenting the petition to Lucky Wasa, Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF, opined that the system of farming on which GMOs are used would lead to land grabs, impoverish small scale farmers who produce bulk of the food Nigerians eat, and concentrate power in the heads of a few industrial farmers.
Bassey, represented by Cadmus Atake-Enade, project lead, HOMEF, said contrary to the belief that there are no GMOs in the Nigerian market, market survey carried out between 2018 and 2020 revealed the presence of over 30 different products labeled as containing genetically modified ingredients.
The director, therefore, recommended that government should address the root causes of the challenges of food production, including those of pest and disease.
He also urged the government to support Agroecology and provide farmers the needed infrastructure, extension service, access to land, credit schemes and good road networks to enable farmers produce food optimally.
According to him, Nigerians are consuming foods bought from the market shelves without any idea that they are made from the genetically modified organisms. The manner in which these items are imported into the country calls for serious concern.
“We demand a ban on GMOs and a repeal of the National Biosafety Management Agency Act which came into force in the year 2015 and was reviewed in 2019 to include emerging and even more contentious aspects of extremely risky modern biotechnology.
“We demand close surveillance of our markets and farms to halt illegal entry of GMOs into Nigeria and into our food supply. Also, a ban of all toxic agrochemicals-especially glyphosate containing ones identified as probable carcinogens.
“We demand a halt to the assault on our agriculture through genetic modifications of our staple crops, including cassava.
“Nigeria does not need GMOs. They are promoted on false premises. Research has shown that GMOs do not give higher yields and are not more nutritious than normal crops,” he said.
Receiving the petition, the permanent secretary, who was represented by Blessing Egharevba, director environment citation and safety services, commended them for the campaign, noting that the ministry’s aim is to ensure the environment is sustained for the unborn generation.
The petition was endorsed by farmers, youths, women, scientists from Edo Civil Society organisation (EDOSCO), women and youth in agriculture, bio-integrity and natural food awareness initiative, among other organisations.