• Monday, June 17, 2024
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House of reps launches GMO inquiry amidst safety concerns

House moves to suspend introduction of genetically modified crops
In the continuous fight for the proper regulation of biotechnology and adoption of Genetically Modified Foods, civil society organisations, CSOs have applauded the House of Reps decision to investigate the introduction of GMOs in Nigeria
The Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF in collaboration with GMO-Free Nigeria stated that the long overdue investigation is vital to save the country 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.
BusinessDay recalled that the resolution to comprehensively investigate the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into Nigeria and for a halt on approval of new products pending the completion of that investigation followed the adoption of the motion by Rep. Muktar Shagaya at a plenary session held on Thursday, May 16, 2024.
The statement informed that as the lawmaker rightly explained, the introduction of GMOs in Nigeria raises serious concerns about safety, regulatory oversight, and their potential impacts on the country’s biosafety.
According to Nnimmo Bassey, executive director of HOMEF,  “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.”
In her reaction, Joyce Brown, HOMEF’s,  director of Programmes and lead on Hunger Politics supported the House of Representatives’ call to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control  (NAFDAC) to ensure labelling of GM crops already in the country. In reaction to this,
“The Agency 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”
She added that the survey has also revealed the fact that the majority of Nigerians do not read labels. Brown advised that 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.
Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, executive director, of Friends of the Earth further stressed the need to examine the composition of the NBMA act
In her words “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.