LEGISLATION / POLITICS

Much Ado About GMO

My name is Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour. I have taken a stand against the entry of Bio-tech( GMO) companies such as Monsanto, dupont and others  in to Nigeria. I have taken this stand for a myriad of reasons, some of which are:

  • To maintain Nigeria’s food sovereignty
  • The Negative health effects associated with eating GMO.
  • To stem a new wave of colonization
  • The negative impacts these companies have had all over the world.

The idea that a nation should make sustainable decisions. In this regard, sustainability is how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive. Sustainability in relation to governance and decision making involves leadership making decisions that encourages the betterment and independence of a people’s present situation with consideration to ensure the security and sovereignty of the people’s future, while learning from mistakes of the past. In a bid to raise awareness about this issue, I have written about this extensively; On y-naija , Sahara reporters  ,The guardian was interviewed by the nation  and recently led a 200 person protest to deliver a petition to the President through Governor Fashola.

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My attention was brought to a rather disparaging article written by a Mr Feyi Fawenhimi here  who goes by the moniker double Eph. This article is my rejoinder based on sources and facts as well as an aim to clarify my position and maintain my integrity for posterity sake.

In my article titled ‘GMO/Hybrid seeds: Inviting cancer to our land, passing a death sentence on Nigerians’ I say.“ Bio-tech-improved tomatoes are engineered so they do not rot quickly. Advantages include a higher income for the farmer. What is not considered is that the perish-ability of that tomato is linked to the human body’s ability to digest it. When the human body cannot get rid of it, it becomes toxic to the body and this is how cancers and other diseases come about.”

Source

“Rats fed genetically engineered Calgene Flavr-Savr tomatoes (developed to look fresh for weeks) for 28 days got bleeding stomachs (stomach lesions) and seven died and were replaced in the study.”

More on the tomato story:

Food Safety – Contaminants and Toxins.  Reviewed in J.P.F. D’Mello, CABI Publishing, 2003.

On Wikipedia The first commercially available genetically modified food was a tomato engineered to have a longer shelf life (the Flavr Savr). Currently there are no genetically modified tomatoes available commercially, but scientists are developing tomatoes with new traits like increased resistance to pests or environmental stresses.” Clearly this product when placed on the free market did not fare to well. For the full story on GM tomatoes

According to Mr. FF,

”There are many more wild claims in Mr Rhodes-Vivour’s article such as this bit: Are the 250,000 bt cotton farmer suicides in India sustainable? Official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture confirm more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves in India each month. This epidemic branded the ‘GM Genocide’ by campaigners was highlighted by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales who said: “The issue of GM had become a ‘global moral question’ – and the time had come to end its unstoppable march.”

Source Aljazeera.com

Sustainability is also not the first word that comes to mind when contemplating Monsanto’s policy of sowing the earth with genetically modified seeds that destroy soil and are designed with nonrenewable traits so as to require constant repurchase as well as acquisition of a variety of other company products like fertilizers and pesticides.

Nor would the term appear to define a situation in which nearly 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995 after being driven into insurmountable debt by neoliberal economics and the conquest of Indian farmland by Monsanto’s Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton.

Now as Mr. FF labors to explain these deaths away, similar to how the NRA ( National Rifle Association) justifies gun ownership after a mass shooting in America, ‘Parents buy more guns to protect yourself from your 10 year old , teachers should too’ or ‘ Gun violence is caused by video games, music and movies’. It is caused by everything except the guns, I digress.

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The real reason for farmer suicides are failed promises of Monsanto, the creation of pest resistance, expensive seeds and the need for a larger amount of water relative to natural varieties. Bt cotton was a failure, but guess what? Monsanto had been paid for their magic seeds, so while their books recorded profit, farmers were dying in debt.

According to physicist and author Vandana Shiva,Monsanto’s contributions to a “suicide economy” in India, such as an increase in the price per kilogram of cotton seeds from 7 to 17,000 rupees. Shiva lists additional complications:

“Indigenous cotton varieties can be intercropped with food crops. Bt-cotton can only be grown as a monoculture. Indigenous cotton is rain fed. Bt-cotton needs irrigation. Indigenous varieties are pest resistant. Bt-cotton, even though promoted as resistant to the bollworm, has created new pests, and to control these new pests, farmers are using 13 times more pesticides then they were using prior to introduction of Bt-cotton. And finally, Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1500/kg/year when farmers harvest 300-400 kg/year on an average.” http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/201212575935285501.html

The dailymail article sheds more light on the issue

‘The crisis, branded the ‘GM Genocide’ by campaigners, was highlighted recently when Prince Charles claimed that the issue of GM had become a ‘global moral question’ – and the time had come to end its unstoppable march. Speaking by video link to a conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, he infuriated bio-tech leaders and some politicians by condemning ‘the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming… from the failure of many GM crop varieties’.

As with all things just like the tobacco companies did for 50years (denying the link between lung cancer and smoking), Mr. FF will continue his tirade. The most important question is what did the government of India do? Did it ban micro-finance banks? Did it pray to the rain god? Did it put farmers in the psych ward?

Here is what it did:

The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology sued Monsanto in the Supreme Court of India and Monsanto could not start the commercial sales of its Bt cotton seeds until 2002. In February 2010, the environment ministry put an indefinite moratorium on Bt brinjal, India’s first GM food crop, days after the country’s biotech regulator cleared it for cultivation. Among many reasons, the ministry said it was “necessary to review” the performance of Bt cotton first.

Link 1, Link 2

Mr. FF on twitter goes on to allege that the effects won’t be far reaching because only few crops can be genetically modified. These are the top twenty GMO foods

Small minded people that see only money don’t see far, similar to the kings that were selling their people only to later be dethroned and ruled by their “clients”. It is little wonder I always go back to quote Lord Lugard’s impression of the Nigerian.

“In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, excitable person. LACKING IN SELF-CONTROL, DISCIPLINE, AND FORESIGHT. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving weapons as an oriental loves jewelry. HIS THOUGHTS ARE CONCENTRATED ON THE EVENTS AND FEELINGS OF THE MOMENT, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future, or grief for the past. His mind is far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asiatic, and exhibits something of the animals’ placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the State he has reached.”

History has shown no international company operates at the same standard in Nigeria as they do in their home country. Oil spills in the Niger delta vs. Oil spill in New Orleans. Another example would be the Pfizer scandal – but according to Mr.FF that would be me fear mongering. Look at America as a case study- despite the outcry, they are begging for the right to know (by labeling) if their food contains GMO. That right is being denied to them. I mean, AMERICA, the land of the free the land of the bold. No, the land of the biggest pockets (aka lobby power) controls the senate.

Now that we have cleared that up, let’s talk about evidence.

On evidence, big business and independent research

Mr. FF goes on to claim scientist findings only “Link” GMO consumption to certain diseases. As most know, Science based research works on establishing co-relation and adjectives used to describe their findings include ‘linked or strongly linked.’ For example, pollution is linked to climate change. We can argue all you want about links, all that matters is when the hurricane comes you should stand and argue with it as well.

Furthermore Science research uses animals such as mice and pigs to test the potential harmful effect of a substance on a human being because they are biologically and genetically similar to humans. This is normally done over a period of years. If no harm comes to these test subjects, it is then approved for human clinical trials.

France chose to Ban GMO shortly after this study came out, you can read more here

The FDA of America (what NAFDAC is to Nigeria), has no independent research to access biotech companies claims. They simply use the data the bio-tech companies give them.For more on that read . There seems to be a lot of confusion on who is actually supposed to ensure what these companies are producing are safe- case in point

“Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety” — FDA, “Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties” (GMO Policy), Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 104 (1992), p. 229

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.’s job” – Philip Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Playing God in the Garden” New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1998.

In lay mans terms. As Mr. FF should know, In England it is said “Drunk driving is linked to motor accidents”. Drunk driving does not cause motor accidents, it could be, but other factors could as well e.g. an angry passenger, a chicken crossing the road, a ghost, spirits from the village e.t.c Point is when the police stops a drunk driver, they don’t assume that because driving drunk is merely LINKED to motor accidents they should let you go and see what happens.  Is that what happens? NO. The driver is arrested for drunk driving and the potential to endanger other drivers.  Now let’s “LINK” that to science (pun intended)

Argentina the poster child of Monsanto has released possibly the world’s most detailed information on the effect of consuming GMO as well as the heavy pesticide spraying on human beings spanning a period of 15years.

RAW Data

From the first national meeting of physicians in towns were GMOs are grown and sprayed. (If at all you do not read anything else, please click this link.

You can also read a summary of this article here. Ok, so what a couple of people are born deformed, some sterile ,children getting cancer, all that does not matter because the oyinbo man has told us his magic seeds are safe and will make us more money. A press release from the New Soil Association released in April, 2008 shows that genetically modified crops do not result in higher yields than non-genetically modified crops.

So let’s look at this from the one dimensional, basic and myopic perspective of money at whatever cost. An input for production is easily available at a very cheap price – seed. Monsanto promises us extra yield if we use their seed. Now for us to use their seed, we need to abide by their seed laws, which they are currently pushing through our senate. The seed laws aim to control availability of natural seeds forcing farmers to buy only Monsanto ‘magic seeds’.

These seeds are 1000 times more expensive. Furthermore they destroy the fertility of the soil, creating super weeds and pesticide resistant pest.

Aside from farmers becoming solely dependent on foreign corporations that insist on Maximum free repatriation of capital from Nigeria (capital flight), they offer no guarantees or assurances to farmers if their magic seeds fail them. Supplying seed in itself does not create jobs, does it? We have seeds and our soil is fertile so why insist on taking panadol for another man’s headache?

In the words of the Russian Prime minister, Medvedev

“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,”

Proponents of GMO pitch the idea of tackling world hunger. Mr. FF in all your travels in Nigeria have you once seen a bone skinny child like those in the Oxfam ads shown in England? I haven’t. So whose hunger are they trying to fix? Walk past any store in England early in the morning one sees the volume of food that is thrown in the bin. In Northern Nigeria, when tomatoes are in season, they are given out at cheap prices or left overnight at markets for people to take. People that can’t eat don’t lack food; they lack the money to buy food as well as efficient supply systems. Nigeria’s population is fed by mainly small holder farmers without machinery or an intelligent logistical and storage system to bring food in to the cities from the hinterlands neither do they have a real access to funding. With the level of unemployment in the country, why does the government not focus on mechanization (tractor drivers, machine operators), Logistic systems, Processing and packaging of our agro products. Till today Nigeria exports raw cocoa, surely cocoa processing would create jobs? Or do you recommend we get magic cocoa seeds and export potentially more while we continue to remain a primary economy?  Ok if you do, say after me.

 ‘Massa, Massa, you want more cocoa to boost yo economy mo corn n maize for yo bio-fuel..i go plant yo magic seeds and grow em fo ya’.  Massa  – good monkey, good, ever loyal ever useful….’

I use the term slavery because, what was once free and accessible (seeds), a foreign body (Monsanto et al) seeks to claim OWNERSHIP of it by restricting the FREEDOM and ACCESS to seeds.

I use the term slavery because, Monsanto and other bio-tech produce, kill the soil, kill natures pollinators (bees and butterflies) and to top it off their seeds do not regenerate or are illegal to replant.

If a system such as this is left unchecked, it takes away CHOICE and makes farmers SOLELY DEPENDENT on Bio-tech firms which in turn make nations solely dependent on Bio-tech firms. Considering that nature did all this for free, forgive me for calling that slavery or as you say, use of hyperbole.

If Nigeria is so excited about Bio-tech, why don’t they set up their own Biotech bio-safety 3 labs and commission / engage Nigerian scientist with Nigeria’s best interest at heart to create sustainable solutions for Nigeria on our own terms? Why should they? New Prados must be bought, private jets to be maintained… bio-se kini?  Nah, we will just wait on America to bring it for us.

Sigh, too many sheep in Nigeria… follow follow, It worked in America so duh, it must work in Nigeria since the Monsanto system is so perfect.

Monsanto GM-corn harvest fails massively in South Africa-

Five million Brazilian farmers are locked in a lawsuit with US-based biotech giant Monsanto

Seems like the whole world is happy and dandy with GMO huh Mr. FF?

It would seem Mr. FF would want us to be like Jack from the beanstalk story, except in this story Jack (the farmer) gets no gold.The gold stays with the Giants.  One would imagine a capitalist such as Mr.FF would frown on the idea of monopolies and espouse the idea of the free market.  So it should be quite strange that Monsanto, through governments insist on controlling the availability of natural seeds. That isn’t very free market is it?

So Mr. FF, in future stick to commenting on inanimate things such as cement, stocks, shares etc.Human beings are not just numbers.

Mr. Feyi Fawenhimi does ask one good question though- “But if your case is strong, why shout so loud?”

Oh, Sincere apologies, It is unfortunate I never mastered the art of being an armchair critic. I imagine it must be nice to go from one issue to another on twitter. I mean it’s cheap, does not involve sacrifice and clearly this is the world we live in,

the world today

It comes as no surprise you would find my agitation ‘loud’.

BUT

“Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” – Haile Sellasie.

“If the people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”– Thomas Jefferson.

To answer your question, I shout because a bunch of senators who have never spliced a gene before are going to make a decision that affects millions and until I started shouting, it had not been covered or discussed in mainstream media. I shout because these very same people base their understanding of GMO like Mr. FF on what the GMO companies tell them. I shout because the idea that 2 generations down, Nigerians could potentially be sterile, deformed or have a higher incidence of cancer and that is not something I can abide by. I leave my construction sites and building projects to generate mass awareness because time is of the essence as they are currently pushing the seed law through senate. I shout because I care about each and every one of the 170million Nigerians. I shout for generations yet unborn. I shout because since 1850, my ancestors in consecutive generations have shouted for me. The great thing though is, unlike Monsanto I believe you should have a choice. So you are entitled to your opinion. I will make no further comment on this issue. Incidentally, today the 24th of  May is the global march against Monsanto- click to see interactive global map and to know more about this/support the cause, please see references below.

2million others have marched against Monsanto

We have set up a facebook group – Like the page to keep updated and support.

Our petition on change.org

FOR MORE SOURCES

Excellent video that explains how Monsanto gets its power in Senate and America since the 60s due to how it determines which scientist get

Government ties to Bio-tech firms and active ways they intend to push in to Africa

http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/FoI_summary_May14.pdf

http://rt.com/usa/wikileaks-monsanto-cables-report-273/

France ban GMO

http://www.seattleorganicrestaurants.com/vegan-whole-foods/monsantos-gmo-corn-banned-russia/

Inequality in America based on raw capitalism – surely the market should have corrected this.

Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Great scientific papers /references at the bottom of the page.

Extreme” Levels of Roundup Detected in Food—Are You Eating This Toxic Contaminant?

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/20/glyphosate-roundup-levels.aspx?e_cid=20140520Z2_DNL_art_1&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20140520Z2&et_cid=DM45050&et_rid=526093706

Exceptional resource detailing pesticide effects as well as GM soya

G8’s new alliance for food security and nutrition is a flawed project

Insect resistance to Bt crops: lessons from the first billion acres

Geo-Political dynamics

India – The “Massive Con” Causing a Suicide Every 30 Minutes

on Monsanto

Countries that ban GMO

Nice interactive map-  http://www.gmo-free-regions.org/gmo-free-regions.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulation_of_genetically_modified_organisms_in_the_European_Union

http://www.examiner.com/article/what-countries-have-banned-gmo-crops

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