SOME civil society organisations (CSOs) have commended the Nigerian Senate for considering a bill that seeks to review the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act in a bid to ensure food safety in the country.
The CSOs include GMO-Free Nigeria, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).
The CSOs commended the Senate for considering the review of the NBMA Act while reacting to a news item by Food Farm News published on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, titled ‘Senate insists on GMOs through regulation’.
The bill, which seeks to amend the NBMA Act towards ensuring healthy food consumption and soil management against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) products, has been passed for second reading by the Senate.
A statement released by the CSOs noted that majority of members of the Senate are supporting the passing of the bill for an amendment of the NBMA Act for a more diligent and integrity test of GMOs.
Senate president Ahmad Lawan ordered that the Bill for an Act to amend the National Bio-Safety Agency Act, 2015 and other related matters be referred to the committee on the environment for further legislative actions and report back in four weeks.
The leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, who presented the bill, said it will make ensure zero tolerance to any hazardous product related to GMOs.
Abdulahi said our soils and the good health of Nigerians must be well protected with an eco-friendly environment.
Barrister Chima Williams, Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, described the development as a welcome one, adding that the position of the Senate resonates with what they have been telling Nigerians and the government for over a decade.
“GMOs are regulated because their safety is not guaranteed. There are good reasons why in Europe, robust regulatory mechanisms are in place for GM food and GM crops. GMOs are not the same as natural varieties, and they are also not substantially equivalent.
“If they were indeed one and the same thing, as the GMOs proponents claim, why are they modifying them, and why have patents on them?” Williams asked
While congratulating the Senate for the development, the Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akinbode Oluwafemi, said, “We strongly believe that scientific integrity and social responsibility and accountability are not negotiable, and no technology should be exempted from these values.”
He urged those saddled with the duty of protecting our food to look away from the industrial yield-output paradigm and adopt a more integrated system.
Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, the Coordinator for the Food Sovereignty Programme for Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Africa and the Chair of the Agroecology and Land Working Group of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), said: ‘There are enough reasons to hold back on commercialising GM Crops in Nigeria.”
She urged the Senate to subject all the GMO crops and food approved into the environment to independent, transparent, environmental, social and health impact evaluations.
Also contributing, Nnimmo Bassey, Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), stated that “this is a huge milestone towards defending the rights of Nigerian citizens to safe food and environment”.
“It is a step in the right direction for consumers and especially for smallholder farmers who are directly impacted by GMOs and associated chemicals and yet have little or no knowledge or choice about the entry of these unnatural varieties into our food system or of their potential risks. We reject being fed with foods of dubious quality,” Bassey added.
The CSOs rejected the non-circumspect modus-operandi of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, National Biosafety Management Agency and partners to impose GMO crops/foods upon undiscerning Nigerians via their introduction and marketing into the agricultural system and food supply chain of the country.
They noted that they have valid concerns about GMOs, adding that they have compelling and convincing reasons to support their views even though the promoters of GM technology are constantly vilifying them.
According to the CSOs, instead of engaging in open and honest debate, they have seen some scientists and promoters of the GM technology hardening their positions, lashing out at critics, and forwarding personal opinions or parroting corporate opinions and agenda.