For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

Group Charges Nigeria Government Embrace Scientific Agriculture

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

Convener of the Food Avail Nigeria and Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights, CASER, Frank Teitei, Esq. has called on the government of Nigeria to embrace scientific agriculture and ignore the calls of anti-GMO campaigners

Speaking while briefing Newsmen in Abuja yesterday, the Convener said the purpose of the briefing, essentially, was to bring attention to the much progress Nigeria has made.

Meanwhile, the EarthNews Media recalls that the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, recently weekend, kicked against Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, in Nigeria’s agricultural space.

The Executive Director, of HOMEF, Architect  Nnimmo Bassey, said Nigeria, like many other African nations, stands at a crossroads to her food future, which the stark choice is between adopting agricultural biotechnology in line with the industrial agriculture model or agroecology (regenerative agriculture), and added that GMOs in the guise of enhancing agricultural productivity, and fostering economic development, locks in monocultures, loss of biodiversity, seed monopoly and seed/food colonialism, while the agroecology, which is regenerative agriculture, delivers increased productivity and economic resilience and also nourishes and revives ecosystems, strengthens local economies, mitigates climate/environmental crises and promotes food sovereignty.

He said: “GMOs ride on the wave of global fetishization of technology by which technology is considered a silver bullet. Besides posing difficulties to regulatory frameworks, they directly impact human as well as socio-economic rights of our people. The complex threats and attendant risks of this technology make it expedient that we examine the implications of GMOs through the lens of fundamental human rights. It is important to understand that GMOs represent a paradigm shift in agriculture. These are plants, animals, or microorganisms that have undergone fundamental changes at the cellular level and can no longer be considered natural.

“Most of them are engineered to withstand dangerous herbicides which kill other species except the engineered ones. Other crops are genetically engineered to act as pesticides ostensibly to kill identified pests that would otherwise attack the crop or seeds.

“Examples include Bt Cotton and Bt Cowpea or beans approved for commercial release in Nigeria. The implication of eating a seed engineered to kill a pest is that you are eating a pesticide with unexamined implications including on the microbes in our guts.

However, The Food Avail Convener, TieTie argued it was an important effort to be made to harness the benefits of biotechnology in Nigeria, especially with the recently licensed B.T. Cowpea and  the recently licensed Tela beans, which we believe will transform the agricultural landscape of Nigeria, and enhance food security for the citizens of Nigeria.

In his words “Nigeria in 2015 fully enacted the National Biosafety Management Agency Act to regulate the practice of genetic engineering that is biotechnology and that major milestone put Nigeria on the world map of ensuring safety in the application of modern biotechnology. So, whereas research developments have been going on, since 1987 in this country, it was not until 2015 that Nigeria decided to put a regulatory framework “

“Nigeria’s journey in the application of the principles of biotechnology has been a long way coming, and we as an organization, that is, the citizens advocacy for social and economic rights, through its program food avail Nigeria, and the people are glad that we are not only witnessing the science revolution in the areas of food, medicine and environmental sustainability, but we have also become the beneficiaries of the visionary leadership this country has had at a time, in this particular area of biotechnology, by harnessing the benefits of biotechnology and this has made put in place a legal environment that places a premium on the safe application of modern biotechnology techniques and genetic engineering.

“Therefore, the Nigerian government as far back as 1987 has put legislation in place to encourage the application of biotechnology and genetic engineering as instruments of socioeconomic development. Many people do not know, that processes that include the fermentation of beer are the process of biotechnology. Taking living organisms from another living organism and introducing it to another for the purpose, of getting a desired purpose, is actually what the simplified explanation about technology is. Making beer, and making other things, are traditional forms of biotechnology.

He recalled that in the year 2000, the American Congress enacted a law, referred to the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2000. It was a very interesting law which removed duties, stacks, and export duties, import duties, on over 1800 agricultural products coming from Africa to the United States. And the United States Congress encouraged African countries including Nigeria to ensure that they developed agricultural products and that they should not discriminate against biotechnology products coming from Africa. So, in 2000, the African Congress contemplated that  African countries could grow GM food, that could be exported to the United States

If the MBME says it’s safe, it’s final, according to the law, therefore, what does the MBME do? The agency is responsible for all approvals, licensing, withdrawals, and enforcement of standards and guidelines, generally on all related matters of safety, security, and all about technology products, especially GM foods, by applying, at this most interesting risk assessment procedures and ensuring the highest safety standards. I’m not here to do an apology for the MBME.

My point as a citizen’s organization leader is that the International Covenant on Economic and Social-economic Rights, for which we established the citizen’s advocacy for social economic rights, to which Nigeria advised in 1993, provides that every Nigerian citizen has a right to benefit from scientific and cultural progress. You cannot deny my beloved citizens, myself, from the progress of science across the world, all in the name of unfounded fear, mysteries, and mythology.

“For me, whose career is centred on human development, I am in for any technology that will improve the human condition, cure diseases, improve/ sustain the environment, that will not have any impact on the animal life, and will not have any adverse effect whatsoever on the health of human beings.

“Africa cannot continue to remain a perpetual backwardness because of the reasoning that we cannot engage authorities. The Nigerian government since 1987, true to 2015, and in 2022 enacted the National Agency for Bar Technology Development shows that this country believes in the benefits and the potentials of bar technology. If you have anything, go and prove it”.

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