CSOs accuse GMOs promoters of deceiving farmers to plant B.T. cowpeas
BT beans are safe for consumption, says NBMA
Promoters of genetically modified crops are deceiving farmers to plant Bt Cowpea without adequate sensitization, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has alleged.
The foundation said farmers were only told it was an improved variety that would boost their yield, and since most farmers were interested in having bumper harvest, they embraced the crop.
HOMEF Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey, during a press conference, said that the promoters of the variety did not tell the farmers that they were being given genetically modified bean seeds, and the excuse given by a top official of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) was that they could not explain what such crops were to the unlettered farmers, but merely told them that they were being given improved varieties.
Bassey claimed that BT beans would impoverish Nigerian farmers, erode biodiversity and pollute neighbouring countries.
He added that Cote d’Ivoire, Burkinafaso, Malawi, South Africa, Kenya and a host of other African countries had rejected the crop, saying in Nigeria, HOMEF was calling for caution given the environment and health concerns raised by stakeholders.
The Coordinator of Food Sovereignty Programme at Friends of the Earth Nigeria/Africa, Marian Bassey-Orovwuje, said giving GMOs to farmers without their consent is illegal.
HOWEVER, the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has assured Nigerians that the BT cowpeas are safe for both human consumption and the environment.
The Director-General, Dr Rufus Ebegba, gave the assurance at a workshop in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and he debunked the claim that the crop is hazardous.
Ebegba also insisted that the cowpea scaled through several rigorous risk analyses and safety tests before approval for public consumption by the Federal Government,
“So, we urge the public to discountenance the rumour,” he said. “This GM bean or cowpea, released by the Federal Government, does not pose any danger to the environment. This is with all authority and confidence because we have done what needs to be done as well as carried out risk assessment.”
The director-general, therefore, maintained that the crop was genetically-modified with non-harmful traits sourced from the soil that resist insect attacks and pest infestation.
“This engineering process ensures that insect attack on beans over the years has now been conquered. This breakthrough was achieved by scientists who discovered a particular gene and material in the body of beans, known as Bacillus Thuringiensis,” he explained.
Ebegba said based on these findings, the Federal Government approved the crop to boost food production and eliminate the use of harmful chemicals by some farmers to protect their crops.