The Nigerian government is being urged by 5 million citizens to reject Monsanto’s attempts to introduce genetically modified (GMO) cotton and maize into the country’s food and farming systems.
Monsanto doesn’t seek to feed the world, it seeks to control the food supply. At least, that’s the general consensus reached by millions who have been educated on the dealings of the corporation, its GM crops, and the herbicides used to cultivate them.
As it is, the biotech corporation has a lot of influence, and already has its seeds in a number of countries. In India, for example, farmers are caught in a vicious cycle trying to repay debt and cultivate crops from GM seeds which cannot be replanted. As a result, a record high of Indian farmers are committing suicide.
Because farmers, faith-based organizations, civil society groups, students, and local community groups in Nigeria are not willing to venture down the same path, millions are urging their government to reject Monsanto’s attempts to introduce genetically modified (GMO) cotton and maize into the country’s food and farming systems.
EcoWatch reports that a general agreement has been reached by millions of Nigerians who are seriously concerned about human health and environmental risks of genetically altered crops. For this reason, a joint objection has been submitted to the country National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA).
The joint petition follows Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited’s own application to NAMBA that seeks to release GMO cotton (Bt cotton, event MON 15985) into the city of Zaria as well as surrounding towns. Another application seeks confined field trials of two GMO corn varieties (NK603 and stacked event MON 89034 x NK603) in multiple locations in Nigeria.
In a press release, the groups relayed that they are particularly alarmed about the commercial release of Bt cotton into Nigeria, which is being phased out in Burkina Faso due to the “inferior lint quality” GMO cultivars.
Said Nnimmo Bassey, the director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation:
“We are totally shocked that it should come so soon after peer-reviewed studies have showed that the technology has failed dismally in Burkina Faso. It has brought nothing but economic misery to the cotton sector there and is being phased out in that country where compensation is being sought from Monsanto.”
He asked in a statement:
“Since our Biosafety Act has only recently entered into force, what biosafety legislation was used to authorize and regulate the field trials in the past in accordance with international law and best biosafety practice?”
It was last year that former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed the National Biosafety Management Bill into law. The act basically opened the doors to GMOs cultivation in the country, which millions have been fighting against since.
There are numerous concerns pertaining to the cultivation of GMO crops. Not only have certain studies linked the consumption of genetically modified foods with debilitating health concerns, there is resistance to accepting them because they are made to be sprayed with RoundUp, a controversial herbicide which contains glyphosate. If you’ll remember, glyphosate was declared to be a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization (WHO) last year.
In addition, it’s well-known that Monsanto – and other Biotech corporations, such as Dow and Syngenta – do not play nice when activists fight back. Now and again, a farmer will win a monumental case against the corporation, but more often than not, they are crippled by the weight of debt that accompanies going up against the AgroGiant in court.
Glyphosate’s devastating effect on health is a main concern of the group’s. It is noted that crops are genetically enhanced to tolerate the use of herbicide glyphosate, and the toxic effects it present should not be allowed in the country.
“Should commercialization of Monsanto’s GM maize be allowed pursuant to field trials, this will result in increased use of glyphosate in Nigeria, a chemical that is linked to causing cancer in humans,” said Mariann Orovwuje, Friends of the Earth International’s food sovereignty co-coordinator.
The groups also argue that the health risks of introducing GMO maize into Nigeria could be “enormous” considering that maize is a staple food in their diet. In the United States, 99% of the corn cultivated is GMO. The long-term effects of consuming a genetically modified crop have yet to be discovered, so if they are hazardous, it could be horrendous for Nigerians.
In addition, Nigeria does not have a platform to test for glyphosate or other pesticide residues in food and food products, nor is there an agency that can monitor the herbicide’s impact on the environment, including water resources.
While GMO-proponents maintain that modified crops are safe to eat and necessary for ensuring global food security, the Nigerian clearly have objections.
In the video below, Bassey objects to the belief that spliced and diced crops are essential to ensure food security and nutrition in Africa. He says that the continent can feed itself without the aid of multinational biotech companies:
“Genetically engineered crops are not engineered to help anybody. They are engineered to help the industry that produces the crops.”