What are GMOs? One may ask. GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) is an organism created in a Laboratory by taking genes from one species and forcing them into an entirely unrelated species – in order to achieve a new trait or characteristic that is not possible in nature. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans.
Arguments have been on-going and questions arising from the general public and conscious healthy lifestyle citizens as to the veracity of GM foods on our soils and food shelves.
The promoters of these gene modified seedlings argue that GM seeds are:
They solve food security in Africa
Ensure minimal usage of pesticides
Create better yields
However, the anti-GMOs believe that over 25years since GM crops first came, what is obtainable is in the reverse i.e.
Higher pesticide use
Poor flavouring of crops thereby reducing its taste from the norm
No meaningful improvement in nutrition, yield or water consumption.
Seed control & monopoly thereby farmers’ dependence on seed companies
These concerned citizens worry that GM foods are unhealthy and present inter generational risks to human development, her health and environment.
In the midst of these on-going arguments, doubts and uncertainties, some European and Asian countries have out rightly rejected GM foods e.g. Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Japan, Italy etc. South Africa and Sudan are the African countries that have embraced GM foods with Nigeria following suit. Burkina Faso at one point welcomed GMO BT Cotton but only recently, has discontinued cultivation of it as it reduced her country’s yield and did not meet her expectations.
One is left to wonder if there’s more to GM foods than what has been sold to the Nigeria government and bio-safety agencies.
Some key critical questions to ponder over are;
Did the Nigeria bio-safety agencies and regulatory bodies conduct an independent research before approval of GM crops?
Are there considerations to enact labelling laws on GM foods/crops for citizens who prefer their local, traditional and natural seeds/foods?
What safety measures are put in place to regulate, control and contain GMO foods while also safe-guarding traditional, local and organic farming from contamination?
Are GMOs really and truly solutions to food security in Nigeria?
Finally, is food security really the agricultural problem as it’s peculiar to our Nigerian society?
While all these questions maybe begging for answers from our regulatory bodies and the Nigeria government, it is worthy to note that GMO foods are not equivalent to conventional food. Hence, Nigerians should not be misdirected as millions or acres of GMO crops could be planted and consumed in Nigeria without the knowledge and consent of the Nigerian people (consumers /farmers alike).
We therefore demand that our bio-safety law be reviewed and a labelling law in place to label every GMO seed, crop or food for farmers and ultimately, for consumers of foods.
Faith Ayegba is a prominent youth activist from Barns Connect. She can be reached via [email protected]