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Expert knocks NBMA for insisting on safety of GM foods

By Idowu Isamotu, Abuja

Few days after the conclusion of a three-day training on Biosafety communication organised by National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in collaboration with African Union Development Agency – New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), an expert has faulted claims of the agency on safety of Genetically Modified foods.

The NBMA, which is saddled with the responsibility of regulating the potentials of modern biotechnology and its derivatives for the benefit of Nigerians, had last week during opening of the training in Abuja, insisted that Genetically Modified foods in Nigeria are safe.

The Director-General of NBMA, Mr Rufus Ebegba while speaking, had maintained that Nigerians are safe on the consumption of GMOs, saying it is the responsibility of the agency to guarantee safety in the use, handling and transfer of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The NBMA boss had lamented on reportage of activities of the agency by the media, adding that, “In Biosafety Communication, the sharing of factual information is crucial and one of the key components of public awareness which is a vital objective of the NBMA. When you disseminate accurate information, it gives the listener the power to make an informed choice.”

But in a swift reaction to NBMA’s claim, the Director of a Non-Governmental Organization – Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Mr Nnimmo Bassey reiterated that several studies have linked the use of these products with diseases such as cancers, allergies, birth defects, liver and kidney disorders.

In an exclusive chat with SAHEL STANDARD, HOMEF explained that the regulation of GMOs in Nigeria needs to be strengthened beyond the unproven claims by the NBMA that GMOs are safe.

Nnimmo B

Mr Bassey said, “Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) posits that the regulation of GMOs in Nigeria needs to be strengthened beyond the unproven claims by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) that GMOs are safe.

“There are fundamental issues with the processes by which genetic manipulation is done. Several studies have linked the use of these products with diseases such as cancers, allergies, birth defects, liver and kidney disorders.

“Instead of reducing the use of herbicides, GMOs lead to the development of resistant weeds, resulting in use of more toxic formulas and an attendant degradation of ecological systems.

“Recently, in Nova Scotia, Canada, it has been found that the European corn borer has developed resistance to the GM (Bt) trait designed to kill it. This is the same Bt trait that has been used to modify the cowpea and cotton varieties recently approved for commercial release in Nigeria by the Agency.

“These unexpected failures of the biotech solution in Agriculture puts a heavier burden on farmers, beside the high cost of the genetically modified seeds and the inability to save or reuse them.

“What Nigerians need in terms of communication, is the truth and about GMOs, especially about the negative implications that they pose to human and animal health, environment,and our economy.

“Instead of making conclusive statements about the safety of GMOs, we should carry out independent, long-term analysis of their impacts to both present and future generations. If GMOs were truly safe, why would there be need for risk assessments and for strenuous regulation?”

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