Ban GMOs’ now, CSOs tell FG

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Edo State has called for the ban of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) saying the federal government should rather begin to invest in agroecological farming systems.

The CSOs made the call during in a Dialogue on Food and Farming System in Nigeria organized by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) on Thursday in Ugbowo, Benin City.

Examining the implications of GMOs on human, animal and environmental health and on Nigeria’s economy, the CSOs defined a viable alternative for increased agricultural productivity and climate resilience.

They said, government at all level should include agroecology in the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan and increase funding for research in its principles and practices.

Addressing the groups, the Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, stated that the claim that GMOs will be the way to go in agriculture was mere propaganda. 

According to him, GMOs do not necessarily increase yield or solve the problems of pests and diseases, as researches show that at present, enough food to feed almost double of our current population is already being produced but most of it is used for industrial purposes, for animal feed or is simply wasted due to poor storage and processing facilities and lack of access to markets. 

Bassey emphasized that Nigerians have the right to question the attempt to overturn its food systems, promote mono-cropping and project toxic chemicals as safe. “We must consistently defend our food sovereignty which ensures our right and access to safe, nutritious, healthy and culturally appropriate food at all times.”

Also a Professor of Genetic Toxicology in the University of Benin, Daniel Olorunfemi, explained the process of genetic modification and how it affects human and environmental health saying some health impacts of GMOs are immune disorders, cancers, reproductive defects and infant mortality. 

On the environment, he said GMOs present risks of horizontal gene transfer and unintended harm to non-target organisms.

“We do not need GMOs. We have the landmass, rich soils and good climate conditions that can ensure food productivity,” Olorunfemi added.

HOMEF’s Biosafety Project Officer, Joyce Ebebeinwe, revealed that agroecology presents a holistic approach to the challenges of agricultural productivity and climate change. 

“It is a knowledge intensive system which manages ecosystems by replacing external inputs with natural processes; ensures quantity and quality production and; also preserves the soil for future generations. 

“Some of the innovations of agroecology highlighted include biological pest control, the push and pull method, participatory plant breeding, and agroforestry,” he said.

The group resolved that States and Local Governments should urgently declare areas GMO-free as a way of encouraging the federal government to take similar steps, increase support for farmers in terms of infrastructure, extension services, access to land and loans, and access to markets.

They also call for the creation of database to reach and sustain contact with real farmers and avoid working with “ghost or absentee farmers”, setting up of seed banks to preserve indigenous seed varieties and promote seed fairs to facilitate learning/exchanges among farmers should be established.

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