Nigeria: GMOs Flood Nigerian Markets, As Federal Govt Urged to Examine Biosafety Guidelines

Over 30 different products mostly imported from USA, China, India and South Africa, labelled to be produced with genetically modified ingredients are in the Nigerian market, a research has showed, even as stakeholders have urged the government to re-examine the entire architecture of biosafety in this country, to protect Nigerians from consuming unwholesome foods.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are products of genetic engineering which is also known as genetic modification (GM) or modern biotechnology. This technology allows scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes in a way that is not possible via traditional or natural processes. A survey by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), carried out in nine major cities in Nigeria and at least 10 shops/supermarkets, revealed that over 30 products including vegetable oils, cereals, noodles, ice cream, salad creams and food spices, labelled to be produced with genetically modified ingredients are in the Nigerian market.

While these products may be cheap, stakeholders told me that crops are genetically modified to act as pesticides against target pests or to be resistant to herbicides, hence GMOs are accompanied by heavy doses of chemicals which are highly toxic and linked to serious health defects. Programmes manager, HOMEF, Joyce Brown said, genetic manipulation of crops poses grave concern for food systems, human and environmental health. For instance, glyphosate, a major component of roundup ready herbicide which accompany a majority of genetically modified products, has been said to be a possible-causing agent, Brown said.

She disclosed that several countries have taken a stand against genetically modified food products because they have found that these products do not give the benefits or show characteristics that they are acclaimed to possess. To regulate GMOs in Nigeria, the programmes manager said the federal government sets up a regulatory agency called the National Biosafety Management Agency; however, the agency has approved several genetically modified food products to be imported into the country.

“As at 2020 when we counted, there were over 20 approvals. We have written to the agency to see the report of the risk assessment conducted on these products before it was approved for importation and we found out that for some products, the assessment was on environmental implication like how crops interact with other crops, but there was no research done in terms of how GMOs affect human health in the long run. Nigerians are being ambushed into using genetically modified products,” Brown revealed.

The other issue is that of labelling, environmental justice and food sovereignty activist, Nnimmo Bassey tells me, adding that, “Though the agency said the GM products are labelled, to enable Nigerians decide whether they want to consume them or not, it is not possible for labelling to work in Nigeria, because of the way we sell and consume food. We have foods being sold in basin and baskets in the common market where majority of Nigerians buy their products. How can Nigeria detect beans that was preserved with GMOs? As a country, we need to take a stand against these products.”

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