Students call for alternatives to GMOs

Students from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Abuja, have called for a ban on all Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) products in Nigeria, saying GMOs will contaminate natural varieties through pollination.

This call was made at the recent dialogue organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation in collaboration with the department.

With the Dean, assistant Dean, Heads of Departments and students of the faculty in attendance, the dialogue focused on the implications of GMOs on human health, environment and on food sovereignty.

The Dean, Professor E.A. Aiyedun in his welcome remarks stated that GMOs present threats to the environment, and to human health. 

He explained that in the process of gene transfer, new diseases, pests or weeds may emerge. 

He also said that ecological niches will be disrupted with GMOs and that although environmental risk assessments can be used to manage risk, the particular parameters to quantify the affected areas are unavailable.

He stressed that the social, economic and ethical issues around GMOs should be carefully considered.  

He also highlighted the need for increased public awareness and participation in decision making concerning GMOs.

A medical laboratory scientist, Mr Musa Wazani, explained that GMOs are plants, animals or microorganisms whose genetic materials (DNA) have been deliberately altered with the intent to attain desired quality, affect yield or confer the ability to resist pests or herbicides. 

He noted that while genetic engineering has been useful in the pharmaceutical industry, in production of insulin for instance, the manipulation of genetic material of food crops raises serious concerns for both present and future generations.

Speaking on the impact of GMOs on human health, he noted that the allergenic potential of the microbial proteins introduced into the plants or animals is uncertain, unpredictable, and largely untested; adding that several immune disorders, cancers, birth defects, liver and kidney diseases have been linked to the consumption and use of GMOs-associated products. 

On environmental impacts, he noted that GMOs and their attendant herbicides may be toxic to non-target organisms: birds, butterflies, bees and beneficial soil organisms. 

“This”, he added “will have huge impact on biological diversity and disrupt ecological balance

Also speaking at the Dialogue, Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, a lawyer and food sovereignty activist noted that cultivation of GMOs affect livelihoods of small scale farmers as they favour industrial agriculture which is characterised by high chemical inputs, expensive seeds and monoculture systems. 

She also noted that Nigeria will lose market for agricultural products if we embrace GMOs because these products are widely rejected by consumers. 

Bassey-Orovwuje added that coexistence is not possible with GMOs and that they pose serious threats to indigenous varieties and local knowledge. She called for a precautionary approach to the technology and for stricter biosafety regulation in Nigeria. 

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