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CSOs applaud NASS decision to investigate GMOs in Nigeria

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Civil society organisations have applauded the resolution by the National Assembly, directing a halt to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria, pending investigation.

The CSOs, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, and GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance, called for the need to critically examine the National Biosafety Management Agency Act and amend it so as to close existing loopholes including the composition of its Board.

The resolution by the National Assembly followed the adoption of a motion moved by member representing Ilorin West/Asa Federal constituency, Muktar Shagaya during plenary on Thursday.

The House after a debate on the motion, resolved to comprehensively investigate the introduction of GMOs into Nigeria and for a halt on approval of new products pending the completion of its investigation.

Reacting to the decision, the group noted that the investigation is vital to saving Nigerians from the dangerous path to food colonialism, contamination of our genetic resources, loss of
biodiversity/nutritional diversity, soil degradation, and overall disruption of our agriculture and food systems.

The CSOs in a statement made available to NatureNews on Friday, pointed out that the introduction of GMOs in Nigeria raises serious concerns about safety, regulatory oversight, and their potential impacts on the country’s biosafety.

They emphasised the need for a thorough and unbiased investigation in order to unravel the underlying causes of hunger/food insecurity and as well establish definite measures to address those issues in the country.

The statement read in part; “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. That 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 principal and many others.

“The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) will need to devise strategies to have foods sold in local markets in basins, by the road sides, and in processed forms like Ogi and Akara labelled, to ensure informed decision-making by the majority of 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 has revealed over 50 different processed/packaged foods labelled as produced using genetically modified ingredients. The survey has also revealed the fact that majority of our people do not read labels.

“Permits for commercialisation of the Bt Cowpea, Tela Maize, Bt Corn and all other GMOs be suspended pending the result of the investigation by the House Committee on Agriculture and others.”

The CSOs, therefore, reaffirmed the submission by the Federal Lawmaker, that Nigeria needs 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 her local economy.

 

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