Nigeria: Report Faults NBMA, Says Over 30 GMO Products in Nigerian Market

Each genetically modified rice plant in the greenhouses has a barcode and transponder, allowing it to be accurately identified at any time (file photo).
14 April 2021

Contrary to the assurance by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) that there are no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria, a new report has revealed the presence of over 30 different products containing genetically modified ingredients or produced with genetic engineering between 2018 and 2020.

The report was launched yesterday in Abuja by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at a Stakeholders Conference on "The State of Biosafety in Nigeria."

The Executive Director of the HOMEF, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, explained that the modern agricultural biotechnologies could transfer genetic materials from one specie to another to accord certain traits like herbicide tolerance.

Bassey said it was mind-boggling for Nigeria to expand the scope of her biosafety regulation to cover gene editing and synthetic biology when the handling of the elementary versions has generated serious doubts and worries.

He stated: "Contrary to the assurance by the agency that there are no GMOs in Nigeria, market shelf surveys carried out by the HOMEF between 2018 and 2020 have revealed the presence of over 30 different products containing genetically modified ingredients produced with genetic engineering.

"As we have said elsewhere, the purpose of introducing the so-called definitions into the Biosafety Act was to create a crack in the door so as to open Nigeria to vested interest promoting the easy -to-weaponise and extinction-driving gene editing technology. This agency should be called to order. At no time should Nigerians be used as guinea pigs or laboratory rats."

Bassey stressed that it was not too late for Nigeria to get out of the biotech hole before it turned into a bottomless pit, adding that the so-called guidelines for gene-editing and extreme GMOs are dangerous and needless -- just as the permission of GMOs has always been in Nigeria.

The executive director pointed out that the flagship biotech laboratory in the country is in a temporary cabin and stressed that the country does not need to add risky technologies that clearly pose a security threat to the people and environment.

Bassey said: "It is time for us to recognise the facts of our best interests and support agro ecology, smallholder farmers and provide their basic needs including infrastructure, storage/processing facilities and extension services. It is time to halt and completely overhaul the biosafety architecture in Nigeria and invest resources towards ensuring that our farmers get out of poverty and hunger and do what they have always done and struggle to continue to do."

He, therefore, stressed the need to strengthen mechanisms and institutional structures to ensure the effective and holistic implementation of biosafety regulatory protocols and management of Nigeria's local bio-resources in all applicable sectors could not be over emphasised.

Also, the Minister of State for Environment, Ms. Sharon Ikeazor, said that the Nigeria Biosafety system is one of the best in the world.

The minister, who was represented by the Director General of NBMA, Mr. Rufus Ebegba, insisted that the fruits and food in the markets are not genetically modified.

Ikeazor noted that the NBMA is competent to regulate the biosafety sector while adding that gene editing guidelines have been thoroughly designed by experts.

On his part, Mr. Ifeanyi Nwankwere, said there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs at the moment.

Also, Ms. Joyce Ebebeinwe, said that 10 supermarkets were visited in each city during the survey, which was carried out in Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, Uyo and Port Harcourt.

She warned that the impact of the consumption might not be immediate but could manifest in the consumer's internal organs

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