LEGISLATION / POLITICS

The Many Ills Of The Nigerian Bio-safety Bill

On Monday the 20th of April, former President Jonathan signed the National Bio-safety Agency Bill into law. The Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu described the signing of the bill into law as a milestone in the domestication of modern biotechnology in Nigeria, adding that this would allow the country to join the league of nations advanced in the use of this cutting-edge technology as another window to boost economic development.

“It will create more employment, boost food production that will put a smile on the faces of farmers and alleviate hunger if given good attention by the government”.

  Unfortunately this is not the case.

The Bio-safety Bill is a ruse, a scam, a charade, a veil under which Monsanto, Dupont, Sygenta and similar foreign Bio-tech companies can achieve a strong foothold in Nigeria with the sole aim to create a dependent market for their genetically modified seeds (GMO) and Pesticides.

NABDA and the Bio-safety bill only SEEKS to push the interest of  Monsanto and its cohorts.

For example, a report by the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) described how the Syngenta Foundation, a non-profit organization set up by the agricultural biotechnology corporation Syngenta, worked on “a three-year project for capacity building in biosafety in sub-Saharan Africa”. The Syngenta Foundation’s partner in this enterprise was the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), a group headed by people with ties to Monsanto and the US government. The ACB identified the Syngenta Foundation/FARA project as part of an “Africa-wide harmonisation of biosafety policies and procedures” that will “create an enabling environment for the proliferation of GMOs on the continent, with few biosafety checks and balances”. Having gone through the Nigerian Biosafety bill (which is available for all to see online), it becomes very clear that the bill was written solely for the purpose of enabling big biotech corporation grow GMO without the welfare of the consumers in mind.

In response to an interview of The NABDA boss speaking on the bio-safety bill, Nnimmo Bassey had this to say.

“You know how bad things have gone when public officials become Monsanto’s spokespersons. The claim that any biotech company promotes diversity of seeds or seeds sources is simply turning logic and reality upside down. The thrust of the industry is monopoly and profit. NABDA should focus on research and not sell an image as agent of corporate interests. In these days of novel health challenges Nigerians will do well to avoid experimental cow-boy technologies that aim for our guts. GMOs are not the solution to our agricultural and food needs.”

ARGENTINA THE POSTER CHILD

In 2011, scientists in Argentina found long term effects of GMO in certain towns where these crops are grown and these include birth defects and a higher incidence of child cancer caused by glyphosate – a herbicide sprayed on GMO crops and marketed by Monsanto. The industrial agricultural practices of spraying these chemicals on farms creates an abundance of these toxic chemicals in the air. in Argentina, in an area where Roundup is frequently used, 80 percent of children have the toxin in their bloodstream and struggle with a variety of health problems. The study, soon to be published by Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry journal, also found additional pesticides in the air and rain with effects just as toxic as Roundup, if not more so, though in lesser amounts than the common herbicide.

WATER POISONING

In June 2012 company Syngenta announced a proposed $US 105 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by communities in six Midwestern U.S. states who claimed that atrazine a herbicide produced by sygenta had contaminated their drinking water.

Numerous studies have linked the chemical with hormonal imbalances and sexual irregularities in frogs and fish, which result in, among other things, males who produce eggs.

Recently Patrick Moore a GMO lobbyist when speaking about Monsanto herbicides, claimed on national tv –“You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,”. But when the reporter told him that they had prepared a glass and invited Moore to drink it, he refused, saying “I’m not stupid.”

In-vitro study found round up causes cell death to human placental cells at levels allowed in us drinking water.

This brings us to the Nigerian context. In the hinterlands were most farming in Nigeria happens, Nigerian citizens are not served water by a water corporations who consistently test the quality of water. They go to the streams or fetch water from wells. Does the Nigerian government plan for its citizens to drink from poisoned streams and water tables? If they do, these are some of the health concerns

In recent news

In March this year, The world health organization (WHO) classified glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Monsanto product Roundup as “probably carcinogenic to humans,”. They announced this assessment after convening a meeting of 17 cancer experts from 11 countries. Carcinogens are substances that can lead to cancer under certain levels of exposure. Their report stated that Glyphosate causes DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells studied in laboratories.

We lack the scientific wherewithal of Russia, Japan or France 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,”

President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia in his speech at the State Opening of the National Assembly for the 2015 legislative year said “will never accept GM food”. “I must emphasize here that despite our obsession with becoming a major food exporter after 2016, we will never accept Genetically Modified Organisms in our agriculture. The Gambia is strictly maintaining organic agriculture for both our consumption and export,” It is worth noting that The Gambia in recent times has become food sufficient and aims to become a net exporter.

The Netherlands is the latest country—after Russia, and Mexico—to say no to Monsanto. The Dutch Parliament recently decided that the sale of glyphosate-based herbicides to private parties will be prohibited as of late 2015.

GMO collage

With the examples of these countries as a backdrop, Nigeria’s forced marriage with Monsanto et al is reminiscent of the proverbial phrase

“Fools rush where Angels fear to tread”

 

Recommendations

The current trend of Industrial agriculture is destroying the Bio-diversity of plants. Nature’s diversity and genetic uniqueness is what keeps it stable and resistant to diseases and pest. The mono-culture nature of farming as well as cloning of genes has lead to a huge decrease in Bio-diversity. The proliferation of GMO was the best way for these companies to maintain their current business model and expand to total control over food production. This is the reason our food chain has become sensitive to diseases and pest. Most bananas grown for commercial reasons are clones, having the same genetics, everywhere. Thus a single pest can decimate the entire world production of bananas. The only way to create a healthy sustainable agricultural system is by increasing the bio-diversity through the use of Bio-dynamic farming.

The UN in a report titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” with contributions from more than 60 experts around the world. Asserted that Small-scale Organic farming is the only way to feed the world.

Nigerian land is fertile with hardworking farmers who feed this nation without the subsidies their counterparts in the EU and USA enjoy. What Nigeria needs are solutions to its peculiar problems. These include an accessible transportation and logistics system that incorporates storage and food preservation. Community shared tractor and mechanical systems that ensures food gets of the farm in a timely manner. The quality of Extension service to farmers should be increased to meet world standards .Nigerian farmers need REAL access to soft loans. Most importantly by simply improving the conventional farming practices that are already used around the world,We can feed the entire country by integrating companion cropping / permaculture techniquesreforestation of arid areas, alternative infrastructures .Alternatives to the industrialization of agriculture are being explored worldwide, and as the realities of climate change come to the fore, Africa is a place where new models of perma-culture could meet old models of sustainable farming in so doing create sustainable and locally owned solutions to nutritious food production. Our problems will not be solved by “magic seeds”, they will only be compounded.

 

It is not because you are hungry that you should sell your teeth.

“The man that feeds you controls you”- Thomas sankara.

 

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