Last week, the Federal Government rejected a consignment of Genetically Modified (GM) maize illegally imported into Nigeria valued at $10 million. TAIWO HASSAN writes that this is a wake up call for Nigeria
It is no longer news that the Nigerian market is a hub for the consumption of the GMO crops that are believed to be funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through a grant to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to enable Nigerians explore the benefits of GMOs.
Particularly, the debut of the GMO crops has gathered momentum as criticism trailed the sudden approval of the organic crops in the country.
But technically, Nigeria could be said to have been a fertile ground for GMO crops as foreign biotechnology companies had long wanted to gain access to the production of GMOs staple food in Nigeria.
The reason for this may not be unconnected with the fact that the proponents of the GMOs in the country have been luring researchers, scientists, farmers and academicians and government agencies for approvals of the crops.
Despite this, criticism has continued to trail the role of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) for propagating the use of GMO in Nigeria, rather than being a regulatory agency administering the use of biotechnology or organic food in Nigeria.
GMO maize rejection
The National Biosafety Management Agency has been at the vanguard of ensuring that Nigerians are safe from the consumption of organic food and other biotechnology foods.
But because of the porous state of the country’s seaports and land borders, shipping and smuggling of organic foods or GMO foods have been alarming in recent times.
But as fate would have it, the NBMA, in conjunction with the Nigerian Customs Service, ordered back the genetically modified (GM) maize consignment illegally imported into Nigeria through the Apapa seaport in Lagos from Argentina.
According to the Nigeria Customs Service, the impounded 90 tonnes of GM maize, valued at about $10 million was illegally imported into the country.
But while reacting to this during a press briefing in Abuja last week, the Director-General of NBMA, Dr Rufus Egbegba, said: “In view of the information and facts on ground, the agency, in fulfilment of its mandate and in collaboration with the Nigerian Customs Service, ordered the repatriation of the maize consignment with immediate effect.”
He recalled that in October, the agency was informed of the importation of a large maize consignment.
“The NBMA had to step in to avert the release of the maize consignment into the country due to the failure of the importing company to obtain a GM seed import permit from the NBMA,’’ he said, adding, “Representatives of the company were invited to provide more information on the GM status of their import, after which the NBMA proceeded to obtain samples and conduct laboratory tests to ascertain the GM status of the imported maize.
“The results of the analysis and the tests by an independent laboratory of six samples showed categorically that the maize imports were actually genetically modified maize.’’
The director-general stressed that NBMA was proactive and would not tolerate any illegalities or shortcuts in its efforts to protect the lives of Nigerians and the integrity of their environment.
“The essence of ensuring that permit is granted before the release of any genetically modified seed, grains, or organisms is to ensure that risks assessment are carried out to ascertain their safety to the environment and human health,’’ he said.
Speaking in a chat with New Telegraph, President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Lagos chapter, Otunba Femi Oke, said that the interception of the 90 tonnes of GM maize illegally shipped into Nigeria was an eye opener for the Federal Government that Nigerians are not ready to accept GMO crops as a food intake.
He explained that AFAN has been interfacing with the Federal government and its agencies on the health hazards GMOs would pose to Nigerians since the citizens have not adapted to biotechnology or organic foods.
According to him, the national food security is being compromised with the Federal Government’s approval of GMO foods in the country.
The AFAN boss explained that the debut of the crop could spell a doom on the health of millions of Nigerians if not stopped.
“Our association is already meeting the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the National Biosafety Management Agency for propagating the use of GMO in Nigeria.
“We know this could spell a doom on the health of millions of Nigerians. For me, the Nigeria Customs have done a great work by impounding such huge amounts of GMO maize from entering the country,” Oke said.
Nevertheless, the introduction of GMO crops in the country has achieved little penetration as Nigerians are yet to be acquainted with the mission of its proponent- Monsanto, that had already concluded plan to take over the lucrative market and the power to control the major food staples of Africans using a false pretext of foundation humanitarian aid to Africa.
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