POLITICS

The GMO debate – Dr Akinwumi Adesina Vs Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour

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The Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina responded to the article  written by Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour about Genetically modified foods on the Ministry of Agriculture Website in the news section – http://www.fmard.gov.ng/news_inside.php?nid=118. Below is Dr Adewumi Adesina’s reply concerning GMO.

I read this and was shocked at the level of total misrepresentation. There is nothing correct in all this write up. I normally don’t respond to these kind of things, but feel Gbadebo should be educated on facts. First, Nigeria does not have GMOs. Second, all the seeds used by farmers in Nigeria are from conventional breeding, and we allow farmers to reuse their own seeds. Third, we support biodiversity and promote both in-situ and ex-situ gene banks for ensuring local biodiversity is conserved. Fourth, we promote sensible and responsible use of modern technologies to address complex problems of diseases and pest, climate change and malnutrition.

The author unfortunately confuses biotechnology with GMOs, which is done to deliberately misinform the population. He does not understand science. Noise is not fact nor science. Through conventional breeding and biotechnology we have safe nutrient enriched crops such as pro-vitamin A cassava, orange-flesh sweet potato, drought resistant maize, flood resistant rice and bananas resistant to virulent black sigatoka disease that can wipe out all of Nigeria’s and Africa’s bananas, and cassava varieties resistant to cassava bacterial blight that can wipe out Africa’s largest source of food. Does he expect us to fold our hands and do nothing and watch poor farmers go into such devastation?

All the seed companies in Nigeria use conventional breeding. Nigeria is putting in place bio safety laws to regulate use of modern biotechnology. Consumer and environmental safety are priority for us. But we must develop and we must use new technologies. Responsible use of technologies, while managing and preserving biodiversity and the environment and consumer safety is the role of government.

As Minister of Agriculture for Nigeria, I assure you that this is being done. But we must not become misinformed by those that want Africa to remain backward, with misguided anti-technology views.

To communicate, you can use mobile phone (despite associated risks with brain cancer) or tie strings to match boxes or use town criers as done in old times. The former is modern technology. I am sure the writer uses mobile phones, yet it has risks! Why not try communicating with match boxes with strings: after all, it is a safe technology! You can travel by plane or donkey. The former generates C02, but everyone uses it to travel. Why not try traveling to Europe by donkey?

We must be factual, sensible and responsible in our reporting. Nigeria is working hard to empower its millions of farmers with appropriate technologies to lift them out of poverty into wealth. Over 95% of all our agribusinesses are locally-owned companies. I believe in food sovereignty, that is why I am pushing daily for Nigeria to be free from dependence on food imports to feed ourselves. We will feed ourselves with dignity, lift millions of our people out of poverty. But scare mongering with deliberate misinformation as done by Gbadebo and similar anti-technology apologists is not the way to go. His assertions are totally misguided and misinformed.

Unless Africa uses modern technologies, our farmers’ output will remain low and we will remain dependent on others to feed us. That is definitely not the way to have food sovereignty. That will only deepen dependency on others. We must feed ourselves with dignity and we must use appropriate modern technologies to do so, give choices to farmers, while preserving biodiversity, building environmental resilience, robust ecosystems and protecting health and well being of our people.

That is exactly what we are doing.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina
Minister of Agriculture
Nigeria

 

RESPONSE BY GBADEBO RHODES-VIVOUR

With All due respect, Mr Adesina’s response aside from being vague and empty has not addressed any concerns raised by my article. In playing politics with the Nigerian people, he has spoken about everything except the ELEPHANT in the room.

Mr Adesina asserts,

“Nigeria does not have GMOs.”

Sir, WHAT IS MONSANTO DOING IN NIGERIA? In the month of May 2014, an article titled ‘‘Government okays introduction of 40 hybrid seeds in Nigeria” was published in the Guardian newspaper.  Another article titled “Monsanto to introduce 40 new seed varieties.”,  was also published and Monsanto’s vice president, Michael Frank was quoted saying that MONSANTO would focus on maize, soybean, cotton and oil-grape seed production in Nigeria.

According to the NABDA boss (Nigeria Biotechnology Development Agency), Nigeria already has three genetically engineered crops in confined field trial. He names them as BT cowpea in Zaria, the African bio-fortified sorghum also in Zaria and the Cassava plus at the National Root Crops Institute at Umudike, Abia State. The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) in Zaria in association with Monsanto and CSIRO in Australia have created Bt Cowpea using genes derived from the soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis  (which was provided by Monsanto) and have carried out field trials (Ezezika & Dall, 2012).

 Mr Minister there is nothing conventional or natural about Monsanto Transgenic modifications, neither is there anything natural about inserting DNA from bacteria into cowpea. It is clear from these experiments and associations, that Nigerian agencies and institutes have become merely surrogates for experimentation on behalf of foreign/commercial interests.

monsanto

Monsanto in Nigeria: L-R: President Europe Middle East and Africa, Monsanto, Mr Jose Manuel Madero, Vice President, International Row Crops and Vegetables, Monsanto, Mr. Mike Frank and Honourable Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Mrs Asabe Asmau Ahmed during a courtesy call to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development by Monsanto in Abuja 

 

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Monsanto in Nigeria: L-R: President Europe Middle East and Africa, Monsanto, Mr Jose Manuel Madero, Vice President, International Row Crops and Vegetables, Monsanto, Mr. Mike Frank, Honourable Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Mrs Asabe Asmau Ahmed, Commercial Lead West Africa, Monsanto, Natalia Voruz and Business Development Manager, Monsanto Nigeria, Mr Kehinde Johnson during a courtesy call to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development by Monsanto in Abuja 

Mr Adesina asserts,

All the seeds used by farmers in Nigeria are from conventional breeding, and we allow farmers to reuse their own seeds”

Is that the Monsanto Model? There are so many case studies around the world that proves that this is not Monsanto’s model.  Prof. Iwu had this to say about the Monsanto Model.

“One of the things they do and they do badly is that they will bring these things, they will give our farmers seeds for example and they will plant these seeds. Regardless of whether the seeds are safe or not you cannot replant the seeds the next year. You will go back and start buying from them and after a while there will be total dependency. And these things can be airborne and they can destroy our farms and so on.” Prof. Maurice Iwu, Professor of pharmacognosy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN)

Nnimmo Bassey had this to say about the Monsanto model,

“We cannot be force-fed by a savage biotech industry that seeks to colonise African seeds and food systems. The fact that GMOs will not feed the world is well studied and documented. See the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report, for example. GMOs will enslave the world through the intellectual property rights that allows the biotech industry to patent their seeds, debars farmers from sharing or saving seeds and forces them to buy seeds every planting season. It seeks to overturn age long sustainable practices.” Nnimmo Bassey Nigerian environmentalist, Chair of Friends of the Earth International 2008-2012

So again I ask WHAT IS MONSANTO DOING IN NIGERIA?

 Mr Adesina asserts,

“Nigeria is putting in place bio safety laws to regulate use of modern biotechnology. Consumer and environmental safety are priority for us.”

Ify Aniebo a molecular geneticist had this to say about the consumer and environmental safety of Monsanto GMO.

“The few scientific researches done on the effects of these foods on humans have showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshaped cell structures in the liver, pancreas and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially atrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed organs, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates and higher offspring mortality as well.

After GM soy was introduced in the UK, allergies from the product skyrocketed by 50 percent, and in the U.S. in the 1980s, a GM food supplement killed dozens and left five to 10 thousand others sick or disabled. Repeated use of seeds like Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready soybeans results in vicious new super-weeds that need far greater amounts of stronger herbicides to combat. Their toxic residues remain in crops that humans and animals then eat. Even small amounts of these toxins are endocrine disruptors that can affect human reproduction adversely. Most recently, tests showed the presence of the herbicide glyphosate, widely used with Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant GM soybean and maize varieties, in samples of mothers’ breast milk in the United States.”. Ify Aniebo (BSc, MSc, MRes, MPH)is a molecular geneticist from Oxford University, with a master’s in public health She was also recognized by Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan during the centenary celebrations as an inventor and innovator.

Again i ask what is Monsanto doing in Nigeria?

The minister presents the bio-safety law as an infrastructure that would look out for the interest of Nigerians by rigorously testing GMO products to ensure they are safe for consumption as well as the ecosystem. Here is what the Chairman, Senate committee on science and technology, Prof. Robert Boroffice, had to say on the Bio-Safety bill.

“I can speak authoritatively that Mr. President will be anxious to enact a Bio-safety law, when he gets the passed bill before him, for the interest of the country, he will sign, So that Monsanto and other countries can come to Nigeria to assist us in boosting agricultural production not only in food but also in area of cotton, cowpea, maize, tomatoes.”

Somehow before the bill has been passed it is clear Monsanto has Pre-qualified? Is that how a Bio-safety bill should work Mr. Minister? It is clear that this Bio-safety bill is nothing more than a gateway to guarantee Monsanto’s entry into Nigeria. This coupled with the minister’s framework (which is available online) makes it clear the focus is on big business as opposed to the safety and welfare of the Nigerian people.

Mr Adesina asserts,

We must not become misinformed by those that want Africa to remain backward, with misguided anti-technology views. “

Let’s see how Monsanto GMO has fared in other parts of the world. In India for example, Monsanto crop failures are linked to the suicides of 300,000 cotton farmers.

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. Monsanto’s 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 than 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.”

According to HRH Prince Charles of England:

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. He condemned ‘the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming… from the failure of many Monsanto GM crop varieties’.

In Brazil, five million Brazilian farmers are locked in a lawsuit with US-based biotech giant Monsanto, suing for as much as 6.2 billion Euros. “Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production,” Jane Berwanger, lawyer for the farmers in the latest installment of the legal battle erupting in South America, the Brazilian court has ruled in favor of the Brazilian farmers, saying Monsanto owes them at least US$2 billion.

So I ask for the umpteenth time Sir, what is Monsanto doing in Nigeria?

Mr Adesina uses a myopic and simplistic analogy to trivialize our health concerns in relation to risks associated with GM technology. He speaks of donkeys and planes, phones and match boxes.

Dr Adesina, Prof Borroface, have two million people marched against the airline industry or one Airline Company? Have 2 million people marched against the mobile phone industry? The answer is a resounding NO. Two million people all around the world in 436 cities have marched against Monsanto globally protesting the negative health effects and harm their technology does to human beings and the environment. Why? Because the risks associated with this technology far outweighs the benefits.

But Ill humor you, let’s say those two million people and everyone i have quoted in this article is anti-science and needs in your words “educating”, Are the 6 countries of the G8 anti-science too?

Is the Technology Powerhouse – Japan anti-science? Yet they banned GMOS and have strong bio-safety laws PREVENTING and INHIBITING the importation of GMO products in to their country. France and Manufacturing powerhouse Germany banned Monsanto cultivation and GMO products. Italy banned cultivation of Monsanto and GM products. England does not allow cultivation of Monsanto crops and only allows GM products in to the country as animal feed and even this is under scrutiny. Lastly, the world super power Russia banned all Monsanto products as well as GM products entering the country.

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,”

While our Minister and Senator are trying to pass a bill to allow Monsanto to come in to Nigeria,

Russia is passing a bill to treat producers of biotech crops from companies such as Monsanto, The Dow Chemical Company , and Syngenta as criminals, with fines comparable to terrorism. As co-author of the bill Kirill Cherkasov said,

”When a terrorist act is committed, only several people are usually hurt. But GMOs may hurt dozens and hundreds. The consequences are much worse. And punishment should be proportionate to the crime.”

So the question remains and I ask again, WHAT IS MONSANTO DOING IN NIGERIA?

Mr. Minister, Mr. Senator, Do you have as robust an infrastructure as Russia, Japan or France? Do you plan to set it up overnight? Do you have the scientific infrastructure to monitor Monsanto?  Mr. Minister you clearly need to educate the leaders of all these great nations as well once you are done educating me. Do you have more scientists at your disposal than France, Germany or Japan? Or are we basing our policy on America and what America tells us is safe? A nation which is controlled by ‘Profit at any cost corporations’?

A speech made by US Rep Dennis Kucinich on the house of congress floor:

“In 1992 the Food and Drug Administration decided that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the functional equivalent of conventional foods. They arrived at this decision without testing GMOs for allergenicity, toxicity, anti-biotic resistance and functional characteristics. As a result hundreds of millions of acres of GMO crops were planted in America without the knowledge or consent of the American people: no safety testing and no long term health studies. The FDA (Americas’s version of NAFDAC) has received over a million comments from citizens demanding labelling of GMOs. Ninety percent of Americans agree. So, why no labelling? I’ll give you one reason: The influence and the corruption of the political process by Monsanto. Monsanto has been a prime mover in GMO technology, a multi-million dollar GMO lobby here and a major political contributor.’

Mr Adesina asserts,

“Unless Africa uses modern technologies, our farmers’ output will remain low and we will remain dependent on others to feed us”

On this I agree with Mr. Minister, So I ask, Sir have you fully mechanized the Nigerian Agriculture sector? Do farmers have access to funding in the form of soft loans? Of all the money purportedly set aside for the agricultural sector, how many farmers have ACTUALLY accessed those funds? How is Nigeria doing with regards to the Maputo declaration? You clearly have a reference for what optimum productivity should be… do Nigerian farmers get subsidized like their European or American counterparts? Do they? Yet according to the IMF, in its largest countries by agricultural output at Purchasing Power Parity, Nigeria is ranked No 5, second to the USA which is ranked No 4 and all this was achieved without machinery and without access to funds or subsidies like their American counterparts.

Clearly giving them all that is too much work, so you propose magic seeds? Nigeria is dependent on imports not only due to previous issues raised, but also the fact that we do not process our products e.g rice. Till today Nigeria a nation is boasting about $900million revenue from the export of raw cocoa. Raw Cocoa in the 21st century, Cocoa has made men fortunes since the 1800s yet we still export raw cocoa. Mars Inc made $30billion annual turnover and that is just one chocolate company. Ignoring all the byproducts of Cocoa processing surely it would make a lot more sense for Nigeria to at least process her cocoa?

Nigerian leadership has to evolve from its Fire brigade paradigm in which it favors Corporations and special interest to exploit the nation at the detriment of its people. Case in point, The Niger Delta people complained for years concerning the destruction of their land and their waters and they could not feed themselves. Leadership ignored their calls. Champions of their cause lost their lives. Nigeria behaved as though the oil was for Nigeria but the oil spill was for the Niger delta. It was only when these people after years of complaints took up guns that Nigerian leadership paid attention. Today we pay billions in amnesty every year. What would it have cost Nigeria to have listened back then? To have enforced oil companies to clean up and do the right thing as they do in their own countries? Would it not have been cheaper for Nigeria on the long run? We are paying this price in the North currently because leaders have put selfish interest above those of the Nigerian people.

Argentina the poster child of Monsanto is currently experiencing what I just spoke of. Research released from communities around farms where Monsanto is implementing its technology showed an increase in risk for defects at birth due to exposure to pesticides in mothers. The specific defects included were limb reduction, urogenital anomalies, CNS defects, orofacial clefts, heart conditions, and ocular defects.

So again I ask WHAT ARE MONSANTO AND THE LIKES DOING IN NIGERIA?

When full mechanization of Nigerian agriculture is achieved, extension service to farmers increased to meet world standards and farmers have access to loans, Nigeria will feed herself independently without the need to resort to GMO.

Monsanto and the likes have no business in Nigeria and the Bio-safety bill should not be passed because it is merely a charade to get Monsanto into the country. I’ll tell you why two million people march against Monsanto and not cell phone companies. Food and water are the most basic requirements for human life. God in his wisdom made our sources of food renewable. Monsanto through its patent laws and systems seeks to own, control and charge for what has been given to us freely. This makes Nigeria dependent on foreign bio-tech firms to feed. So Mr. Minister there is no confusion here, this is what we stand against. The fact that six out of the eight countries that make up the G8 have banned the cultivation of GM foods for consumption in their own countries but formed an alliance to promote and fund this initiative in our country is something every Nigerian needs to ponder on.

 

 

References

GMO COWPEA In Nigeria

http://www.aatf-africa.org/userfiles/CowpeaFAQ.pdf

http://www.agricultureandfoodsecurity.com/content/1/S1/S5

 

GMO Biofortification

http://biosorghum.org/bio.php

Nnimmo Bassey – GM a threat to Nigeria’s food security

http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/14574-gm-a-threat-to-nigeria-s-food-security

March against Monsanto

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

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

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/may/26/millions-march-against-monsanto

http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/uprooting-ecoterrorism-syngenta-gm-crops-sabotaged-in-spain/

http://dailyindependentnig.com/2013/01/decline-assent-to-national-biosafety-law-experts-urge-fg/

Countries That Ban Monsanto GMO

http://preventdisease.com/news/13/042213_Poland-Becomes-The-8th-EU-Nation-To-Ban-Monsanto-Maize.shtml

http://www.trueactivist.com/italy-becomes-the-9th-eu-nation-to-ban-monsantos-gmo-corn/

Largest countries by agricultural output at Purchasing Power Parity according to IMF, 2014

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

Bio-safety Bill

http://www.vertic.org/media/National%20Legislation/Nigeria/NG_Biosafety_Bill.pdf

Prof. Iwu canvasses nationwide debate

http://www.theguardianmobile.com/readNewsItem1.php?nid=26155

Russia’s stance ( Monsanto as a terrorist organization)

http://www.veooz.com/news/oHDFiPX.html

Maputo Declaration

http://www.nepad.org/nepad/knowledge/doc/1787/maputo-declaration

Ify Aniebo

Health risks of genetically modified foods Nigerians cannot ignore http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/features/focus/163505-health-risks-of-genetically-modified-foods-nigerians-cannot-ignore

Research from MIT exploring links of GMO’s to Health defects.

http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/glyphosate/glyphosate.html

Monsanto Effects on surrounding farm areas

http://www.reduas.fcm.unc.edu.ar/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2011/10/INGLES-Report-from-the-1st-National-Meeting-Of-Physicians-In-The-Crop-Sprayed-Towns.pdf

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