Business is booming.

Farmers are winning the war against GMO crops

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Farmers across the globe are beginning to win the war against Genetically Modified Organisms crops, popularly called GMOs.

Genetically modified crops are plants whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering methods for agricultural purposes.

They were intended to boost crop yields, reduced costs for food or drug production, reduce need for pesticides, enhance nutrient composition and food quality, resist pests and disease, so as to solve hunger problems and.achieve food security amid the world’s growing population and climate change impacts.

However, recently farmers and civil societies alike have raised concerns about the health risk and environmental impacts of GMO crops to farmers and consumers alike.

Recently, the Philippine Suoreme Court (SC), in its En Banc deliberations, issued a Resolution that granted a Writ of Kalikasan to stop the commercial release in the country of two genetically modified products, Golden Rice and Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant. The Writ, graned on April 18, 2023, was petitioned by a group of individuals and organizations led by Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura.

The court ruled that all commercial propagation of golden rice and Bt eggplant must be stopped until “the concerned respondent government agencies submit proof of safety and compliance with all legal requirements”

The Rules define the writ as “a remedy available to a natural or juridical person, entity authorized by law, people’s organization, non-governmental organization, or any public interest group accredited by or registered with any government agency, on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or private individual or entity, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.”

Last week, the Nigerian House of Representatives called on the Federal Government to suspend further introduction of GMOs into the country pending the conclusion of a comprehensive investigation.

The resolution of the House followed the adoption of a motion moved by the lawmaker representing the Ilorin West/Asa Federal Constituency, Kwara State, Rep Mutter Shagaya.

Leading the debate on the ‘Need to investigate the introduction of genetically modified crops in Nigeria,’ Shagaya said the recent introduction of GM crops in Nigeria has raised serious questions about the “safety, regulatory oversight, and the potential impact on the country’s biosafety and ecosystem.”

He submitted that GM foods can be created to contain almost anything, “including genes which have higher levels of toxicity and negative long-term effects on human health.”

The lawmaker further argued that the introduction of GM crops has led to public outcries, with serious concerns expressed about the potential risks they may pose to human health, environmental degradation and food security.

Adopting the motion, the House urged the federal government to “suspend the introduction of new GMO crops until an investigation by the Committee on Agricultural Production and Services is completed and the findings are made public.”

These interventions, have been hailed by environmentalists and civil society organizations, who have been at the core of the fight against GMO crops.

Among the CSOs are the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, and GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance, who hailed the resolution of the House.

The group in a statement, 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.

They said the introduction of GMOs in Nigeria has raised 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.”

Also, a press release from Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) said the Philippines Supreme court decision underscores the triumph of farmers and the people in asserting their constitutional right to health and a healthy environment.

The group said: “This decision underscores the triumph of farmers and the people in asserting their constitutional right to health and a healthy and balanced ecology against the introduction of unwanted, unnecessary genetically modified crops.

“Golden rice and Bt eggplant, touted as a solutions to vitamin A deficiency and pest infestation, faced staunch opposition from small farmers, consumers, children’s rights, scientists, and sectoral groups who have long advocated for healthy, sustainable, community-driven farming methods through farmer-led agroecology. The Court of Appeals ruling acknowledges the inherent risks associated with genetically modified crops and reaffirms the importance of conserving and protecting biodiversity and the health of the people.”

“This victory in the Philippine Court of Appeals is a testament to correctness of forwarding farmer-led agroecology and food sovereignty and to the resilience and determination of farmers who have tirelessly defended their rights to control their seeds, food systems, biodiversity and health of the people. It sends a powerful message to corporations and policymakers that the future of agriculture lies in empowering farmers and embracing agroecological principles that prioritise environmental sustainability, biodiversity, and the well-being of farming communities.

“As we celebrate this momentous and historic win, the call to meaningfully support and enable our farmers in their transition towards agroecological farming practices becomes more urgent than ever. However, the need to sustain our efforts and ready ourselves [for] a possible hearing in the Philippine Supreme Court is imperative.

“By investing in farmer-led initiatives and promoting policies that prioritise food sovereignty, we can build a more resilient and equitable food system that nourishes both people and the planet.”

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