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GMOs: Stop testing ‘unsafe’ technology in Nigeria, Environmentalists warn FG

By Idowu Isamotu, Abuja

Cross section of environmentalists have again issued a strong warning to Nigerian Government over its move to expand the law seeking to insert extreme forms of biotechnology, including synthetic biotechnology and gene drives into the food systems of the country.

The environmentalists, who converged on Abuja during a conference, organised by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), said Nigeria should not be turned to a testing ground, where all forms of ‘unsafe’ and rejected technologies elsewhere would be welcomed.

Delivering a paper entitled: “GMOs and their Implications on Human and Environmental Health”, a Medical/Molecular Microbiologist, Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi of University of Abuja, argued that the research around GMOs was conflicting.

“Though the research around GMOs was conflicting. There was a growing body of evidence connecting GMOs with health issues, environmental damage and even violations of consumers and farmers rights. The long term effects of GMOs on both planet and people were still largely unknown”, he said.

He added that virtually all the studies, which claim to be safe are funded by biotechnology corporations in order to make profits from GMO sales.

Also speaking, the Executive Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, berated government for making every effort to modify all crops in the country, adding that government of the day is willing to sacrifice national interests.

According to him, “We cannot continue to be a testing ground for risky technologies developed elsewhere. So far, it is doubtful if any of the permits issued in Nigeria is for a variety genetically modified in Nigeria. They are more likely engineered elsewhere and brought into here to be tested.

“In considering the matter of seeds, foods and biosafety in Nigeria, we are confronted by the display of a sophisticated lack of knowledge by highly schooled professionals who insist that whatever they must be accepted as truth.

“These highly placed players pose great threat to Africa and not just Nigeria. While the world is grappling with understanding the implications of these technologies and what governance mechanism adopt, our Nigeria regulators and some lawmakers are pushing to open the way for them to be tested here probably based on their unverified claims that Nigeria has the most qualified practitioners as well as the best equipped laboratories in Africa.”

Ifeanyi, also in an interview with journalists, explained that implications of GM foods on human heath include, increased or decreased weight compared with controls; blood biochemistry disturbances; Male reproductive organ damage and Immune system disturbances.

He said, “There is no possible way that our health authorities can test all possible combinations on a large enough population, over a long period of time to be able to say with absolute certainty that they are harmless.

“So, if any video ever tells you that GMOs are completely safe for consumption, it’s not true‎. We don’t know enough about them to make such a definite statement.”

It would be recalled that the government through its agency, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) at a public hearing few weeks ago in House of Representatives, planned to expand its law.

Nigeria officially signed the Biosafety Bill into law in 2015, making it eligible to join the league of nations that are already using genetic engineering (GE), also called genetic modification (GM), to boost food production.

The NBMA regulates the technology in Nigeria, which the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, had declined to sign into law in his country.

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