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Group opposes GMOs as solution to Nigeria’s food crisis

Empty plates and rising prices: Can Nigeria find a way out of the food crisis?

Civil society organisations (CSOs) under the auspices of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) have decried the promotion of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria, asserting that it was not the solution to the country’s food challenge.

The CSOs stated that improving the performance and resilience of global food systems, and their ability to cater for all who rely on them, would be key to reaching zero hunger. They stated this during a media training on the preservation of healthy local foods/seeds and the promotion of appropriate and supportive food policies which held in Abuja on Wednesday.

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Speaking against the backdrop of the public presentation of Tela Maize recently, HOMEF backed the position of Mojisola Adeyeye, the director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), who in a television interview on Tuesday, said GMOs cannot be regulated by NAFDAC as they are not fit for human consumption

The DG, who classified GMOs as pesticides, said: “Pesticides are used in agriculture, public health, horticulture, and food storage. Pesticides are manufactured and imported through very strict regulatory processes to ascertain the safety of handlers and minimal impact on human health and the environment, but serious concerns have been raised about health risks resulting from misuse and abuse through occupational exposure and residues in food and drinking water resulting into acute, chronic, and environmental effects.”

In her presentation titled “Food system challenges in Nigeria and way forward, Jackie Ikeotuonye, a nutritionist, botanist and CEO, Beauty for Ashes (BFA) Food & Health Group, said the expansive use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture was one of the most potent symbols of the worldwide threat to food justice and food sovereignty.

“Today over 365 million acres worldwide are believed to be planted in GMO varieties of soya, maize, cotton and other crops. Much of the world, however, is continuing to resist this uniquely controversial and invasive form of genetic manipulation of our food. Facing continuing opposition to GMOs on so many scientific, economic and political grounds, corporate seed companies continue to assert the claim that their technology is necessary to feed the world. “

She noted that several recent studies affirm that locally-scaled, peasant agricultures are far better able to feed hungry people than all the innovations of global agribusiness.

As a means to address the nation’s food challenges, the botanists called for proactive steps from the National Assembly to place the release of GMO seeds on hold.

“We as Africans must look inwards to solve our food system problems, expand access to other safer and sustainable farming systems like agroecology, and prosecute those compromising these systems. We must understand that nature is more complex than digital computers as well take out the politicisation of the framer/herder clashes” she urged.

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Also speaking, Donald Ikenna Ofoegbu, the coordinator, of Alliance for Action on Pesticides in Nigeria, and programme manager, Heinrich-Boll Foundation, while responding to questions on the link between pesticides and GMOs, said a lot of challenges in growing food led to rampant usage of chemical fertilisers.

“When you use more chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers, you deplete the soil. When you deplete the soil, typically the wise solution would be fixing the soil, improving the soil. But scientifically, our shortcuts, GMO crops would withstand any pesticide you bring in. So it kills every other thing and leaves the chemical”, Ofoegbu said.

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