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Nigeria Approves GMO

In 2018, Nigeria approved the cultivation of GM cotton. In 2019, the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) gave its approval for the commercial release of GM cowpea popularly called beans. We are told that this was the result of nearly a decade of research. Cowpea is an important source of protein for millions of Nigerians.  

We are also told that this would be helpful to farmers who apply pesticides several times within a planting season in an attempt to control the destructive pod borer (Maruca vitrata) pest. The approval paves the way for making the seeds available to farmers. It is hoped that there will be a significant decrease in pesticide use since the GM cowpea has been engineered to offer resistance to insects.

Prof. Alex Akpa who was the acting director of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency said that with the approval, Nigeria “has registered her name among the global scientific community as a country capable of finding solutions to her challenges.”1 GM foods have already found their way into Nigeria before now and they are probably in every major “super store” in the country. What this means is that Nigerians have been consuming GM foods with the majority of the people not even being aware. Rufus Ebegba, the present director general of NBMA, has said that the approved crops are safe for human consumption.2 NBMA is an agency that is in charge of regulating GMO foods in Nigeria and the director told agricultural journalists in Lagos that “the agency is not created to stop GMO but to make sure they are safe for the environment as well as humans.”3

Those in authority who should protect the public from health dangers are those approving GM foods and telling us that it is safe for consumption.

Our situation today reminds me of the birth of the nuclear era, another time when humanity stood at the threshold of a new technology. When nuclear power was first introduced, there was tremendous excitement about its potential. The Monsanto Corporation, always thinking big, proposed a plutonium-powered coffeepot that would boil water for 100 years without refueling.

Enraptured with the possibilities, we believed that nuclear energy was going to give us “unlimited energy” that was “too cheap to meter.” But of course, that’s not what happened. Instead, it has given us radioactive waste too toxic to dispose of, and too long-lived to store safely. If you take into account the long-term environmental costs, most of them not yet paid, it’s given us energy too expensive to comprehend.

If we could do it all over again, knowing what we know now, we would not allow our excitement about the possibilities of “the peaceful atom” to lead us blindly ahead. If we could do it all over again, knowing what we have learned, we would certainly be far more cautious.4

We have been told that GM foods will reduce malnutrition, allow us to do away with pesticides, provide tastier and healthier foods, and bring solution to world hunger.

I want to discuss GMO to let you know that GM foods will not reduce malnutrition but increase it, will not allow us to do away with pesticides but increase our dependence on pesticides as our lands become devastated, will neither provide tastier nor healthier foods, and will not solve world hunger problem. I discuss GMO in order to inform you as well as let you know that Nigeria is making a huge mistake by allowing GMO into the country and there will be dangerous health and environmental consequences if this trend is not reversed. In the United States, the home of GMO corporations, there are actions by citizens to label and possibly eliminate it. Nigeria has welcomed it.

Notes

  1. Nkechi Isaac and Joan Conrow, Nigeria Approves Its First GMO Food Crop, 2019, Cornell Alliance for Science, https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/01/nigeria-approves-first-gmo-food-crop/, Accessed September 2, 2019.
  2. Caleb Ojewale, GMOs Approved in Nigeria are not Harmful, 2019, Business Day, https://businessday.ng/agriculture/article/gmos-approved-in-nigeria-are-not-harmful-nbma/, Accessed, September 2, 2019.
  3. Ibid.
  4. John Robbins, The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life And Our World, 2011, Conari Press, San Francisco, p. 274.

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