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TELA Maize: Approved in Nigeria, rejected by Kenya, USA

By Gbenga Akinfenwa (Lagos) and Joke Falaju (Abuja)
17 October 2021   |   3:13 am
“The newly approved genetically modified TELA Maize variety by the Federal Government was rejected by the United States Government and Kenya. It is unfortunate that Nigeria...


“The newly approved genetically modified TELA Maize variety by the Federal Government was rejected by the United States Government and Kenya. It is unfortunate that Nigeria has become a dumping ground for junk technologies that have been rejected in other countries.”

This is the submission of the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, who also lent its voice to the growing criticism of the new maize variety developed by researchers at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State.

The approval of the maize was contained in a certificate issued to IAR by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), the Federal Government agency mandated to regulate genetically modified products in the country.

The certificate dated October 8, 2021, with permit code no. NBMA/CM/003 was issued to IAR for General/Commercial Release of TELA Maize Genetically Modified for Drought Tolerance, Resistance to Stem Borer and Fall Armyworm. The certificate will be in force tiill October 5, 2024.

Bassey, who said this during a media ‘Training on Agroecology as a viable Solution to Climate and Food Crisis,’ in Abuja, said the maize variety was rejected in those countries, due to its inability to withstand drought. 

He argued that the only drought tolerant crop is the indigenous maize crop that has grown and familiarised with the environment. 

Bassey chided the NBMA and the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) for promoting the development of food crop that has been rejected by other countries.

“A few people should not be dictating to us what we grow or eat. Farmers should be able to decide for themselves. There are strong forces at the corridors of power that just want to destroy our food system, erode our biodiversity and handover agricultural system to the colonialist. It is a political agenda. To start with, that Nigeria population is 200 million is fictional, it is not true. Government needs to know the actual population of the country.

“The politics of GMO is about who controls the market, it is not about feeding the people, Africa is not as populated as it has been peddled by the developed nations, the truth is that our farmers can feed us and they have been feeding us, what they need is basic extension support from the government,” he said.

An Agricultural Technologist, Teaching and Research Farm, University of Ibadan, Mrs. Oyetoun Alonge, who also criticised the approval, warned that there would be grave consequences with the move.

“I am not happy about the development. I am sure that the majority of people that knows the problems or negative effects of these GMO products on us as humans and even on our nation will not be happy. The major consequence is that GMO produce will phase out all the indigenous seeds before we know it. It’s going to affect our local products – species of plants and animals.

“We will have to go back to where the seeds originate every time and before you know it farmers will start embracing the GMO products and our normal maize seeds will lose viability and when they lose viability we may not be able to go back to it because they might not germinate again. And when we are no more using it that means we have lost it forever.”

She lamented that introducing GMO to Nigerians now will have serious consequences. “It means farmers will be subjected to the originator to buy the seed, it is a serious war that we have to consider and I know a lot of people that knows the implications will support me on this.

“There are lots of things that GMO can cause; it has negative effects on our health. There are many researches that have shown that GMOs can cause cancer, allergic reactions, anti-biotic resistance, it can cause immunity problem. Some researches even show that it causes infertility and some simply put it that GMO is toxic.

“I read a study, which says GMO can cause new diseases, new pests, new weeds and things that we are not used to will just be occurring on farms, even in humans. We are still fighting COVID-19; I pray we’ll not be fighting other things if we expose ourselves to this GMO of a thing. Then, it overruns existing species, it phase out biodiversity.

“Organic agriculture is the way to follow now; people should learn that anything that affects our environment will affect us either directly or indirectly. If we use things that are causing problem to our environment, we are causing problems to ourselves,” she said.

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