LEGISLATION / POLITICS

NIGERIA: WIKILEAKS,POLIT(R)IC(K)S & GMO’S

Recently, A petition was submitted to Nigeria’s National Bio-safety Management Agency (NABMA) In relation to Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited’s application to NAMBA for the release of GMO cotton and GMO corn varieties.

This petition was submitted by One-hundred organizations representing more than 5 million Nigerians, including farmers, faith-based organisations, civil society groups, students and local community groups, expressing serious concerns about human health and environmental risks of genetically altered crops.

In the wake of this submission, several misleading and quite frankly deceitful articles have come to the fore. In the article entitled” Facts, fallacies of genetically modified crops” published in The Guardian Newspaper on the 08 April 2016, Dr. M.B. Yerima Asserts,

On the claim that farmers in Burkina Faso are not selling their products, the authors need to pay visit to that small country and see things for themselves. It is not good to negatively report the economic fortunes of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso which is considered the pride of Africa in terms of their ability to champion the application of modern Biotechnology in cotton farming”

Yet on Mon Apr 4th, 2016 Reuters news agency reported that

Burkina Faso’s cotton association is seeking 48.3 billion CFA francs ($83.91 million) in compensation from U.S. seed company Monsanto after it said genetically modified cotton led to a drop in quality, association members said on Monday.”

On April 14th, 2016 Bloomberg news agency reported that “Monsanto GM Cotton Banned by Top African Producer of Crop”  Excerpts from the article :

“Burkina Faso is phasing out the production of genetically modified cotton introduced by Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, because growers are unhappy with the short length of its fiber.

Africa’s biggest cotton grower is reducing the acreage for genetically modified cotton this season until it’s completely phased out in 2018 and replaced by conventional cotton, the West African nation’s cabinet said in a statement published late on Wednesday.

The results of a pilot project with Monsanto that began in 2003 “aren’t favorable in the sense that the length of the fiber after ginning has degraded and no longer responds to the needs of the market,” according to the statement.

“We’ve lost years because of this cotton,” said Mana Denis, a cotton farmer in the western city of Dedougou who welcomed the announcement. “They imposed it on us, but it didn’t produce the desired effects,” he said Thursday.”

Based on these facts, it is clear that Dr Yerima is either completely ignorant of current affairs as relates to bio-technology, out of touch with the REAL effects of this technology or more likely has actively chosen to deceive the Nigerian Populace.

A similar article written to mis-inform as well as couch the need to accept the technology in “climate change” was published in the Guardian Newspaper on 13 April 2016 entitled “Climate change, agriculture and biotechnology part 1” Excerpt from the article

“Most obvious manifestation would be the change in weather conditions; many countries are now experiencing more heat waves, storms and floods. We will not in a hurry forget the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina in the USA or the typhoon Haiyan of the Philippines. All have their increased devastation attributed to change in climate. Coming back to Nigeria, We are losing about 350,000m2 of land mass to desert condition yearly, which is advancing southwardly at an estimated rate of 0.6 kilometre a year, all thanks to change in our climate.”

Surely if the focus is on stemming climate change, shouldn’t our brave bio-tech scientist be working at the fringes of the desert encroachment areas? Planting trees to stop desertification and even using this bio-technology to reverse the ecology of the huge deserts in Africa? The authors make no mention of the loss in bio-diversity due to the forced extensive mono-cropping that his technology promotes. The authors make no mention of patent right claims these companies make on our staple foods such as beans and maize, neither do they mention anything about contamination of local varieties as seen in Mexico, necessitating the ban on GMO corn;

On the 8th of  March 2016, a court headed by Judge Benjamín Soto Sánchez upheld the permanent ban on cultivation of transgenic maize. Soto Sanchez’s sentence establishes that the collective trial showed the illicit presence of transgenes in native maize crops.The transnational companies denounced since July 2013 are Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer-Dupont and Dow.

The authors omit the cases of pollution of water bodies by these toxic herbicides due mainly to run off caused by rain. They conveniently omit Syngenta’s 2012 $US 105 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by communities in six Midwestern U.S. states who claimed that atrazine  one of the most widely used herbicides in the nation had contaminated their drinking water. The author neglects to mention that The City of Seattle is suing Monsanto over allegations that the agrochemical giant polluted the Lower Duwamish River and city drainage pipes, becoming the sixth city to file a lawsuit against the company.

Our environmental friendly authors forgot to mention that In 2009, a French court found Monsanto guilty of lying; falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as “biodegradable,” “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean.” When in actuality it did the complete opposite.

The authors also ignore the fact that the landmark IAASTD report of 2008 ((sponsored by the World Bank and the UN, written by over 400 scientists and agricultural experts, endorsed by 59 countries) was highly dismissive of the potential of GM crops to benefit the world’s poor, neither did it endorse GMOs as a solution to world hunger. In fact, genetic engineering has not significantly increased U.S. crop yields, according to the USDA and controlled comparative studies. Some GMOs have lower yields than non-GMO crops.

Research by the ETC group has shown that small-holder farmers produce 75% of the world’s food, but only use about 25% of the world’s agricultural resources. The industrial agriculture chain only produces about 25% of the world’s food but uses 75% of the planet’s agricultural resources.

Lastly, the authors completely ignore the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver, who speaks not just with the authority of her UN role, but as a respected academic. As a research professor and co-director at the Project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy in the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Aside from her 2013 report titled ‘wake up before it is too late’, here are some excerpts from her speech on agriculture and climate change.

“Food policies which do not address the root causes of world hunger would be bound to fail”

Governments must shift subsidies and research funding from agro-industrial monoculture to small farmers using ‘agro-ecological’ methods’

“Agro-ecology is a traditional way of using farming methods that are less resource oriented, and which work in harmony with society. New research in agro-ecology allows us to explore more effectively how we can use traditional knowledge to protect people and their environment at the same time.”

“Empirical and scientific evidence shows that small farmers feed the world. According to the UN Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 70% of food we consume globally comes from small farmers”.

Neither can the authors wish away the huge list of countries that have ban GMO cultivation, such as Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.

Nor can the authors wish away the determination of governments to protect the interest of their people, as seen below.

On Monday, August/ 24/2015, The German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidit announced that in addition to its existing bans on GMO cultivation, it will make use of the “Opt-out” rules to stop GMO crop cultivation even if varieties are approved by the EU.

So with all this misdirection, misinformation and deception, one must ask who are these people and whose interest do they serve? I got my answer in the wikileaks (Wikileaks is an international, non-profit, journalistic organisation, that Publishes leaked documents alleging government and corporate misconduct.) archives.

The following are Excerpts from leaked cables between the US Embassy in Nigeria and Washington.

Filed under – Nigeria and Biotechnology public diplomacy -2004 February 24, 13:33 (Tuesday)

“1. Summary. The U.S. Mission in Nigeria would like to propose several projects to expand biotechnology awareness and acceptance in Nigeria; all are consistent with the Mission’s biotechnology collaborative efforts with the National Agency for Biotechnology Development and Assistance (NABDA) and broader USG (United states government) objectives in the sector of economic development. We propose three workshops for legislators, government officials, and journalists in Nigeria and a press tour in the United States for Nigerian journalists. Total financing requested is $110,000”.

Filed under – Nigeria: WTO biotech public diplomacy efforts classified by Ambassador Howard f. Jeter. 2003 february 5, 10:02 (wednesday)

“Many agricultural experts in both the private and public sectors have close professional connections to Europe and are sympathetic to European opinions. This is particularly true of Nigeria’s limited agricultural export sector, which exports mainly to Europe (though sometimes through third countries–such as India–where processing takes place) and could face the dilemma of having to chose between biotechnology and continued access to European markets.

In Nigeria, biotechnology is not generally viewed as a tool used by the developed world to keep developing countries impoverished. However, the WTO is often perceived in that light and is publicly criticized as an arm of the developed world. The Embassy, therefore, recommends that any biotechnology outreach initiative focus on the positive impact that biotechnology could have in Nigeria. The outreach should not focus primarily on the WTO case against Europe. Such a focus might obfuscate the issue by causing Nigerians to believe that support for biotechnology and WTO are one in the same, and such belief would not advance our interests.

  1. (U) The Embassy’s ongoing efforts in support of biotechnology include a proposed U.S. press tour for Nigerian journalists who cover biotechnology issues and a comprehensive USAID proposal to support GON biotech efforts through a Nigeria Agriculture Biotechnology Program. In 2002, a large delegation from Iowa, led by the Governor, visited Nigeria and extensively discussed biotechnology issues. The University of Iowa expressed interest in doing work here, but there has been little follow-up. Monsanto has also been a frequent visitor to Nigeria.

However, constraints include the realities of Nigeria’s current (primarily European) export markets, institutional and bureaucratic conflict, lack of scientific capacity, and a need to dispel myths related to genetically engineered foods. End Comment.”

Filed under – Nigeria: Funding request for FY09 biotechnology outreach. 2009 January 20, 15:07 (tuesday)

Under its policy reform project, USAID currently provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Environment on drafting, passage and implementation of a comprehensive bio-safety law.

Post proposes a speaker program on biosafety using a U.S. and Nigerian expert to build support for the passage of the draft Nigerian Biosafety Bill among key Nigerian constituents. The U.S. speaker will discuss biotechnology from a legal perspective, benefits to farmers and consumers, environmental benefits, and current international trends. The Nigerian speaker will address the benefits of biotechnology and its role in helping Nigeria achieve food security.

Impact of project on USG objectives: Will advance USGs(United States Government)  objective”

Filed under – Nigeria: Status of biotechnology regulations. 2003 october 21, 14:36 (tuesday)

Comment: Nigeria’s Director General (DG) of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) recently told the AgAttache that “after attending a biotech conference in Europe, she agrees with a mandatory labeling for biotech food products”

We were also told that the Federal Ministry of Environment may become the regulatory agency for biosafety guidelines, if approved. (Comment: We understand the Ministry is not enthusiastic about biotechnology.)”.

This insidious behavior is not constrained to Nigeria or Africa. In 2007 as a result of French efforts to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety, A leaked cable shows Craig Stapleton, former ambassador to France under the Bush administration, asking Washington to punish the EU countries that did not support the use of GM crops, here is an excerpt.

 “Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices.”

So what can we infer from the above;

  • The bio-technology/GMO push is not originated by Nigerians for Nigerians, but is rather a push by American corporations in partnership with the US government whilst using our journalist and legislators as tools and the face for this push.
  • The bio-technology/GMO push is not a harmless “save the world tripe” or Altruistic. It is being pushed vigorously all over Africa and Europe by foreign interest.
  • Several Nigerian “Authorities” have been trained by these organizations to push their agenda over and beyond the interest of the Nigerian Nation and citizen. Such Conflict of interest removes objectivity and national interest concerns from the discourse as seen with the former minister of Agriculture Dr Adesina, A former Rockefeller employee ( Rockefeller and AGRA are huge advocates of GM technology). This is also evident were would be regulators appointed to protect the Nigerian citizen and environment have come out in the media as spokes people and defenders for these corporations.
  • The bio-technology/GMO push is not about climate change or helping Nigeria economically. It is about creating a monopoly through dependency whilst controlling the food system and supply of our most staple foods.

The last time this many “PhD’s” were in Nigeria telling us to embrace a foreign concept like this, they were selling the structural adjustment program, and with it came the massive devaluation of the national currency, collapse of governmental due process and credibility, huge disparities in income distribution, the destruction of the economy’s manufacturing base and decimation of the progressive middle classes. In other words, the mess we are dealing with today.

As we look at the fuel queues that plague us today, one must wonder whose idea was it to trade of independently refining our crude for importing. Aside from health and environmental consequences, This trajectory would lead to our farmers queuing up for imported seeds and chemicals to farm, even worse expose our farmers and environment to toxic chemicals and expensive agricultural inputs which as seen in Burkinafaso would reduce our agricultural yield even further.

A nation that trades independence for convenience, quite frankly deserves neither.

 

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