Group raises the alarm over importation of genetically modified organism crops
The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has raised concerns over the importation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) crops into the country without following due process.
It said GMO importers were flaunting the National Biosafety Development Act (NBDA) that stipulates that importers should file an application within a period not less than 270 days before commencement of the activity.
HOMEF in a statement alleged that permits are issued for imported GMO seeds without passing through due approval processes, noting that a short notice to import the crops does not allow for risk assessments or safety assurances
“HOMEF totally objects to any sort of formalisation of illegal importation of GMOs into the country. This may have been the basis on which the agency granted WACOT Limited permits to import several varieties of GMO maize over a period of three years.
The statement, signed by the Biosafety Project Officer for HOMEF, Yoyce Ebebeinwe, disclosed that the company had allegedly imported GMO crops illegally in September 2017 and had been ordered to repatriate the grains.
The group further expressed concerns over plans to release Bt Cowpea and Bt Cotton as biotechnology products to the market before the end of 2018, as there was no guarantee of the environmental and health safety of the beans and cotton if released at the end of 2017.
Executive Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, stressed that there were serious challenges GMOs pose in toxicology, allergy, immune dysfunction and genetic disorders, which make it imperative for Nigeria to take precautions.
Such precautionary measures, he said, warns that strict measures should be applied where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage and lack of full scientific certainty.
HOMEF also said it believed that the way to improve economic fortunes of farmers is to invest in organic agriculture, provide farmers with extension services, needed infrastructure, good roads and access to land and loans.
Support for farmers, he noted, should include investment in research and exploration of agro-ecology approach to the challenges of pests and diseases.
It urged Nigeria to learn from others who have rejected GMOs, adding: “The Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni had declined to sign a Biosafety Bill passed by Parliament in October 2017 because of issues of liability, redress and concerns over conservation of indigenous crops and agricultural biodiversity.”
Reacting to a statement in Calabar, Cross River State by the Director of NBMA, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, that the agency has given importers of GMO seeds a seven-day ultimatum to formalise their dealings or risk being shut down in Calabar, Ebebeinwe said this shows clearly how flawed the country’s biosafety regulatory system was.
“Because Ebegba’s statement may be construed to mean that dealers on GMO products in Nigeria will be given permits after they had imported GMO seeds without passing through due approval processes,” she stated.