EDITORIAL: The Growing Menace of the Monsanto-induced Pro-GMO Lobby in Nigeria

Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh
Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh

PREMIUM TIMES is very concerned about the determined march by the US-based multinational, Monsanto, to impose Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into agricultural production in Nigeria.

They have found willing accomplices in two government agencies – the National Biotechnology Development Agency and the National Biosafety Management Agency – that are taking the lead in opening doors to GMOs.

In mid August 2016, three Nigerian ministries held a meeting of biotechnology and biosafety experts at the Sheraton Hotel in the presence of the ministers of agriculture and rural development, environment and science and technology. Virtually all the scientists invited were prominent proponents of GMOs. Key scientists from the Institute of Agricultural Research in Ahmadu Bello University, who had been drawing the attention of Nigerians to the dangers of GMOs, were not invited.

Not surprisingly, the so-called experts’ consultative meeting was turned into a tribune to sing the alleged benefits of GMOs. Rather than a real debate on the issue, the meeting resolved “to sensitise Nigerians on the benefit of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)”.

One of the most despicable aspects of the meeting was the unfounded claim “that GMOs started from the time of Adam and Eve in the Biblical Garden of Eden.” This argument, popularised by Monsanto, sets out to deliberately confuse conventional breeding of crops with genetic engineering, which involves splicing genes and transferring genetic material from one species to another in a laboratory, a late 20th century invention.

Immediately after the meeting, the Open Forum Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), an NGO funded by the GMO lobby, organised a training workshop for 105 advocates who are to engage in propaganda to convince government agencies and the public that the only way Nigeria can feed its population is by accepting GMO technology.

Meanwhile, while the official position of government is that they are reviewing and reflecting on whether to accept GMOs, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has revealed the fact that GMOs have been approved to be grown in Nigeria and that the approval was surreptitious. There is an argument over whether the approval was for a two-year trial process or for permanent production, and whatever may be the case, Nigerians should rise to oppose it as it is.

The assertions made at the meeting that GMOs do not have serious health hazards are based on studies that are not independent i.e. they are typically carried out or funded by GMO companies themselves. The longest period over which tests in such studies have been carried out is 90 days – too short a period for the growth of cancers to become apparent or damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys to be detected.

Data from tests carried out by GMO companies and the corresponding results are kept secret – a 2010 article in the International Journal of Biological Science that reviewed the health risks of GMOs could only obtain the data by court order and lawyers. Independent scientists have shown evidence that Monsanto’s GMO crops are genetically enhanced to tolerate the use of the herbicide glyphosate which was declared a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The current Monsanto project to grow glyphosate infused maize in Nigeria is a direct threat to our health as recent studies have linked glyphosate to health effects such as degeneration of the liver and kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

PREMIUM TIMES is concerned that at no time has the Nigerian government taken a policy decision to approve GMOs and given the health dangers alone of this technology, it is irresponsible to allow this.

Nonetheless, three Nigerian ministers would participate in a lobby workshop in which only Monsanto approved apologists would come to put pressure on government to sustain their approval to start production. We cannot allow the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) to sell our future for whatever temporary inducement it might have received from Monsanto. How can we as a nation allow Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd to register in the country and start production without explicit approval from the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly?

Burkina Faso, which took the lead on GMO production in Africa, decided this year to abandon its GMO cotton. The inferior lint quality of Monsanto products and the enslavement of buying expensive seeds and chemicals from Monsanto every year – for an income less than that generated before introducing the GMO cotton – were cited as reasons for this step.

It should be recalled that for a long time, Burkinabé cotton was renowned for its high quality following a highly successful non-GMO breeding programme founded by the French government and spanning 70 years. The main goal of the breeding programme was to create cultivars that were well adapted to the growing conditions in West Africa and had the desired quality characteristics, such as a high ginning ratio, which is the percentage of the desired cotton fibre per unit weight of cotton delivered to the factory and long staple length.

After the type of well-funded lobby similar to what is going on in Nigeria today, the Burkinabe Government foolishly decided to abandon the home-grown approach and follow the GMO route of Monsanto. After six years of commercial production, the country discovered that the quality and world market price of its cotton had plummeted. Cotton is the second-biggest source of revenue for the impoverished West African country, after gold. It is this same GMO cotton, which failed in Burkina Faso that is now being introduced to Nigeria.

PREMIUM TIMES calls on the Ministers of Agriculture, the Environment and Science and Technology to take the side of Nigerian interest and direct the National Biosafety Management Agency to withdraw the present authorisation issued for the production of GMO crops.

Given our fragile ecosystems and stressed environment, we must take our biosafety seriously and avoid the path of introducing crops that are dangerous to the health of our people and our environment. Nineteen European countries that care about the health of their people have completely banned genetically modified crops. Even the Russian State Duma recently passed a bill banning all import and production of genetically modified organisms in the country. We must not allow Nigeria to be turned into a dumping ground for what other countries have sensibly rejected.

Nigerian research centres such as the Institute of Agricultural Research in Ahmadu Bello University and the Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan have been developing very successful varieties of crops using conventional methods. These research centres should be supported. It is irresponsible to dump what our scientists are developing and opt for the products of a US-based multinational that wants to enslave us to their seeds and herbicides in addition to introducing health hazards.

We need to take a close look at the National Biosafety Management Act 2015, which is highly permissive and was couched for easy entrance of GMOs and related products into Nigeria. The Governing Board of the agency is composed largely of biotech promoters and Monsanto advocates. Neither farmers nor consumers are represented on the board. The present Act allows for the display and receipt of comments on GMO applications to be made within only 21 days. In the case of the approval for Monsanto’s GMO cotton, the application was displayed only at Zaria and Abuja. There was no public hearing or consultation before the approval was given. The Agency was acting as empowered by the clearly deficient Act. This must be rectified to ensure that sufficient time is given for submission of objections/comments and that there are public hearings before decisions are made.

PREMIUM TIMES is aware of the imperative of addressing the twin challenges confronting our agriculture today: an inability to meet domestic food requirements, and an inability to export at quality levels required for market success. The former problem is a productivity challenge driven by an input system and farming model that is largely inefficient. As a result, we are faced with an aging population of farmers who do not have enough seeds, fertilisers, irrigation, crop protection and related support to be successful. The latter challenge is driven by an equally inefficient system for setting and enforcing food quality standards, as well as poor knowledge of target markets. Insufficient food testing facilities, a weak inspectorate system in the Ministry, and poor coordination among relevant federal agencies serve to compound early stage problems such as poor knowledge of permissible contaminant levels.

We must successfully address the challenges of food insecurity and the economic costs of importing $3 to $5 billion worth of food annually, especially wheat, rice, fish and sundry items, including fresh fruits. That challenge is best addressed by looking inward.

The best solution is investing in agricultural research in the country. Our governments should engage its research institutions and bodies at different locations in the country in conducting research for increased agricultural productivity and in making the research results available to farmers and other actors in the agricultural development of the states.

That is the way to go. Was it not just a couple of months ago that the Institute of Agricultural Research of Ahmadu Bello University found a cure for the terrible blight of the tomato Ebola disease that wiped out fresh stew from our homes recently?

Let’s empower our research institutes for our own good.

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  • Watch man

    I have commented severally on the evils of GMO on this forum. I will again re-post some of my earlier comments in a bid to sensitize genuine and objective discussions.

    I knew that it was just a question of time before Nigeria authorities would bow to corporatocracy. GMO is never and can never be good for human beings. U.S., right from Reagan administration has been in the forefront of encouraging genetic modification. As many may know, genetic modification of a plant or organism involved a laboratory process where
    genes from the DNA of one specie are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal to alter their genetic makeup in such a manner that is not possible through ordinary plant or animal reproduction.

    The most important foundation that has been responsible in financing biotechnology has been the Rockefeller
    Foundation. Without passing through the parliament, George Bush, in a 1992 executive order, ruled that GMO plants and foods were “substantially equivalent” to ordinary plants of the same variety, such as ordinary corn, soybeans, rice or cotton. With this ruling, the Bush administration and successive ones treated GMO or bio-engineered foods
    as “natural food additives”, and therefore not subjecting them to any special testing. In most cases, govt agencies took data provided them by GMO companies in order to judge that the new product was fine.Now, it is important we site an example of the hazard poised by GMO. The first GMO food marketed en mass was milk that contained a recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone known as rBGH and was patented by Monsanto. The FDA approved it without testing to know how healthy it was. It was sold under the trade name of Posilac and Monsanto claimed that cows would produce up to 30% more milk if injected with this hormone. While stimulating cows to produce more milk, Posilac stimulated the production of another hormone known as IGF-1, which began to unnaturally regulate the cow’s metabolic processes.

    Dr. Samuel Epstein of University of Illinois’s School of Public Health, a recognized authority on carcinogens was among the first vocal scientists to warn about scientific evidence that IGF-1 was linked to creation of human cancers.
    In addition, farmers began to report (after using Posilac on their cows) that their cows burned out by as much as two years sooner; this is in addition to the hoof or udder infections that came upon the cows as a result of the usage of rBGH. But FDA suppressed this info by presenting the data they got from Monsanto. More info from scientists even
    countered FDA position. A scientist from University of Vermont in 1991 leaked to the media the evidence of severe health problems affecting rBGH- treated cows to include mastitis, inflammation of the udder, and deformed births. You see, GM companies have had their way in this matter due to their collaboration with govt. For instance, George Bush’s
    Agriculture Secretary, Ann Veneman, came to Washington in 2001 from a job as director of Calgene, a biotech company that became a subsidiary of Monsanto. Defense Secretary Donald Rumfsfeld was CEO of G. D. Searle. Searle is the subsidiary of Monsanto that produces GMO-based artificial sweetener and carcinogen known as Aspartame. Rumfsfeld had also been the Chairman of Gilead Science, a California biotech company that had patent on Tamiflu. Mickey Kantor, former U.S. Trade Rep and lawyer to Clinton, left govt to pick up a position on the board of Monsanto. There
    are many more and this had been the trend till date. This is why it has been difficult to check the activities of global corporations.

    Like I commented elsewhere, this kind of science fits into the depopulation effort of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto Corporation and Syngenta Foundation who are mopping up over one
    billion types of natural seeds and depositing them in a seed vault close to the North Pole (Svalbard) and dishing out GM seed to the world especially the developing countries. Bill Gates, who has spent $30m on this project since 2006 said, “The world today has 6.9 billion people and that’s headed up to about 9 billion. If we do a really great job, we
    could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent”. The idea is to deprive the world of vital seed necessary for procreation and healthy living. GM seeds have sterilization capability and so it will serve the globalists well in their effort to bring down population. This is just an aspect of the manifestation of the horseman of the apocalypse, which I would not have time and space to write on in this forum. However, what I have outlined above is not only available in documented works but also just one little example to show the harmful effect of GMOs’. The same goes for plants resulting in a lot of health hazards. It is therefore important that this type of technology be sanctioned/discouraged because of its unimaginable capacity to subtly decimate human beings through the generation of all manner of terminal diseases.

  • Watch man

    A REPOST

    If the GMO pesticides and the like that the seed companies are dishing out are so good why is there a global protest against such? Why is it difficult for Nigeria govt to conduct an objective, independent and credible investigation about the cry of the people? When a child begins to point at a particular direction the onus is on the mother to find out what the child is pointing at.

    The News Headlines
    1. Brussels threatens to eradicate weed killer sold by Monsanto – CNBC

    2. Recall of Monsanto’s Roundup likely as EU refuses limited use of glyphosate – The Guardian

    3. Monsanto May Suspend Burkina Faso Business After Ban – Bloomberg

    4. Call on Cornwall Council to ban ‘toxic’ pesticides – West Briton

    5. Monsanto Loses Major PCBs Poisoning Lawsuit, Forced To Pay $46 Million To Victims – Mint Press News

    6. Thousands march against GMO giant Monsanto as Bayer takeover looms – RTdotcom

    7. Protesters worldwide slam US-based biotech giant Monsanto – PressTV

    8. Portsmouth joins 2016 Global March against Monsanto – Seacoastonline

    9. Nebraska Farmers Sue Monsanto for Allegedly Giving Them Cancer – Modern Farmer

    10. Slap in the Face for Monsanto: European Parliament Votes to Ban Most Uses of Glyphosate – Global Research

    11. Two-thirds of Europeans support ban on glyphosate, says Yougov poll – The Guardian

    12. Nine Out of 10 Americans Tested Positive for Monsanto’s Cancer-Linked Weedkiller Glyphosate – alternet

    13.Monsanto GMO Banned by Africa’s Largest Cotton Producer – telesur

    14.Glyphosate ‘Revolution’ Growing – Consumers Want Answers – U.S.Right To Know

    15. France Bans Monsanto’s Roundup as Environmental Groups Push WHO for Stronger Safety Standards – EcoWatch

    16. Why the EU should ban the world’s most popular herbicide – chinadialogue

  • blueeyedkitten

    Fantastic editorial from PT!
    This world is all about business and interest. The same way we want to reject this GMO nonsense, is the same way we should be rejecting the equally fraud called OPV(polio vaccines). These are all designed to continue enslaving the third world countries. Colonialism is no longer fashionable. Neo-colonialism is the new term; but you’ve got to be smart to read between the lines.

    • People have been saying it

      .@Dr Awilo B. Ufot, an Agricultural Economist (Premium Times- May 6, 2016)

      QUESTION:
      The pertinent questions are:
      (a)…. Why did US govt refuse to SELL then to Nigeria but sell now and even give “FREE” armoured vehicles to Nigeria?
      (b) …Why is US Govt selling at this time that Nigerian military is in worse form in terms of human rights (with over 378 Shiites buried alive in Kaduna)?

      The answer is simple. President Jonathan was never a willing tool in the filthy hands of imperialist US govt. Dr Jonathan was not malleable. He was firm and projected policies to encourage home grown ideas and self reliance rather than depending on hegemonic so-called US influence.

      President Jonathan’s sins are:
      —–Increase in excise duties for imported Wheat to discourage reliance on US Wheat (Nigeria spends over $1.5b annually on Wheat importation & is US’s largest buyer)
      —- Launching and encouraging Cassava bread and flour as a substitute to imports
      —-Banning all GMO (Genetically Modified) Foods from the USA. A
      —- Calling US bluff and refusing to beg but seeking alternatives when US refused to sell Cobra Helicopters
      —– Refusing US to have a military base (Which is their ULTIMATE goal) in Nigeria
      —– Refusing to take loans from WORLD BANK & IMF which are controlled by the US govt
      —– Commissioning a research centre for local arms production to extricate itself from monstrous imperialist governments.

      But Buhari is the opposite of President Jonathan. He is overly malleable and has been begging the US to come and assist AND this is what the Americans want – To be the one solving or pretending to be solving your problems and they will make sure your problems never end. A good example is Syria. How can a democracy be supporting what is calls “Moderate Terrorists”? Is there anything like moderation in terrorism? Just because of oil which they want to siphon as they planned in Lybia but paid dearly leading to its ambassador paying with his innocent life all because of greed of the US govt. Any govt that allows US to take over its economy directly or indirectly is doomed.

      Dr Awilo B. Ufot, an Agricultural Economist lives in Calabar

  • People have been saying it

    @.Dr Awilo B. Ufot, an Agricultural Economist (Premium Times- May 6, 2016)

    QUESTION:
    The pertinent questions are:
    (a)…. Why did US govt refuse to SELL then to Nigeria but sell now and even give “FREE” armoured vehicles to Nigeria?
    (b) …Why is US Govt selling at this time that Nigerian military is in worse form in terms of human rights (with over 378 Shiites buried alive in Kaduna)?

    The answer is simple. President Jonathan was never a willing tool in the filthy hands of imperialist US govt. Dr Jonathan was not malleable. He was firm and projected policies to encourage home grown ideas and self reliance rather than depending on hegemonic so-called US influence.

    President Jonathan’s sins are:
    —–Increase in excise duties for imported Wheat to discourage reliance on US Wheat (Nigeria spends over $1.5b annually on Wheat importation & is US’s largest buyer)
    —- Launching and encouraging Cassava bread and flour as a substitute to imports
    —-Banning all GMO (Genetically Modified) Foods from the USA. A
    —- Calling US bluff and refusing to beg but seeking alternatives when US refused to sell Cobra Helicopters
    —– Refusing US to have a military base (Which is their ULTIMATE goal) in Nigeria
    —– Refusing to take loans from WORLD BANK & IMF which are controlled by the US govt
    —– Commissioning a research centre for local arms production to extricate itself from monstrous imperialist governments.

    But Buhari is the opposite of President Jonathan. He is overly malleable and has been begging the US to come and assist AND this is what the Americans want – To be the one solving or pretending to be solving your problems and they will make sure your problems never end. A good example is Syria. How can a democracy be supporting what is calls “Moderate Terrorists”? Is there anything like moderation in terrorism? Just because of oil which they want to siphon as they planned in Lybia but paid dearly leading to its ambassador paying with his innocent life all because of greed of the US govt. Any govt that allows US to take over its economy directly or indirectly is doomed.

    Dr Awilo B. Ufot, an Agricultural Economist lives in Calabar

  • Makusidi

    Premium times must first demonstrate it’s scientific capability to criticise, not just going online advertising they ignorance. “Premium times is very concerned…” please tell us what you know about biotechnology and justify this disgusting propaganda!

    • Rosebud

      Clown, go ahead and laugh at your fatal stupidity, a stupidity that will eventually serve the death sentence on yourself and descendants. If you want reasons why, you’d be best advised to read Egoigwe’s post above in conjunction with that of Watch man. But never mind, l can tell reading and research are not your strongest fortè otherwise you’d not be looking for causative factors this late in the day. You’d already be conservant with an issue that 80-90% of our world is already up in arms over.

  • Watch man

    ANOTHER RE-POST

    Permit NBMA/CM/IM001 on the NBMA website reads, “After a thorough analysis of the application dossier, Risk assessment and Risk Management Plan prepared in connection with the assessment of the application for permit, it is unlikely that the proposed release will cause adverse impact on the environment and on human health. A permit is therefore granted to the Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd as applied for”.

    From this conclusion, it is already obvious to NBMA that the GM cotton is safe. Also, why was the permit granted on a Sunday (a day the ministry is not at work)? Why would the ministry not conduct an independent and unbiased test before granting the permit?I opine that NBMA was hasty in this decision to grant permit. And knowing how our civil service works, it is almost impossible that this Monsanto company will be monitored. Mrs Minister [of Environment], this permit should be withdrawn and the first things done first.

  • Mama Kay

    Please PT don’t let the case die. Some people have been compromised and are ready to sell Nigeria to the highest bidder.

    Nigeria is not developed enough to monitor any thing. United Kingdom banned GM crops in their land and Nigeria without any functioning institutions wants to run where others tread with caution.

  • Watch man

    Dr. Arpad Pusztai, one of the world’s leading experts on lectins and the GM of plants, was (while working for Rowett Research Institute, RRI, Scotland) the first scientist to conduct an independent research on the safety of GM food in the world. He did this with his wife (Dr. Susan Bardocz). Pusztai embarked on this project by testing rats in groups with one group fed with potatoes genetically engineered with lectin (a natural insecticide that prevents aphid insect attack on potato crops). Note that it was the Scottish govt that awarded this contract to RRI at $1.5m.

    After 110 days, the rats fed with genetically modified (or engineered) potatoes were discovered to have developed smaller body size and weight than the ones fed with organic potatoes. The liver and heart sizes of the rats that ate GE potatoes were found to have grown smaller, and have also developed weaker immune systems. In addition, the brain size of the GE potato-fed rats were found to have become smaller than those fed with normal potatoes.Now guess what happened? After Pusztai made known his research result on ITV “World in Action” broadcast Monsanto was grievously angered to the point that they got in touch with U.S. President (Bill Clinton) who had to reach Tony Blair who in turn had to reach RRI. The result: Pusztai lost his job, his research submission was retracted. The rest is history. This info is in the public domain.

    Do we still have any reason to embrace GM or GE products?

    • egoigwe

      Thank you so much for being alive to the evil this dark behemoth portends. Nigerians have to really wake up to the dark evil that confronts us all and that dark evil goes by no other name but Monsanto.

      • Watch man

        Thanks dear for your post. Monsanto is the most hated company on earth and the reason is simple: to depopulate the earth through terminator seeds and the rest of their demonic GE seeds. My major concern is that the Nigerian population are grossly ignorant of the evils of Monsanto. Let us not give up in making our own little input by way of creating awareness in whatever way we can.

  • EOkeh

    This is a very good and incisive editorial. Thanks & keep it up.

  • egoigwe

    That Monsanto, or as my friend would say Monsatan, is out to poison our world in its frantic bid for global monopoly of all agriproducts is no longer in dispute. The question that requires answering is why and how does Monsanto get away with bloody, red murder literally. The following would help explain its inner workings.

    How does the ‘Great Monsatan’ persist in spite of widespread antipathy in Europe, Africa, India, South America and the United States? The simple fact is that Monsanto’s power is based on transactions. Monsanto’s model relies on transactions with industrial-scale agribusinesses running on a treadmill of petrochemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

    Its de facto monopoly forces farmers around the world into transactions as they struggle to compete with industrial-scale farming, super-weeds and seed scarcity. Monsanto negotiates transactions with political players in both parties who, in turn, drive regulatory agencies like a giant corporate-government combine that harvests short-term profits – future fallowness be damned.

    There is the key transaction with convenience-minded consumers who’ve helped make Roundup weed killer quite literally a household name. It’s a subtle psychological ‘buy-in’ that gets a little herbicide on everybody’s hands. And then there are the transactions with Monsanto’s own scientists who make a killing off of the killing.

    And Big Agrochemical – much like Big Oil and Big Tobacco – actively purchases consensus by funding academic studies, public interest groups, high-profile ‘experts’ such as the National Biotechnology Development Agency and the National Biosafety Management Agency pretend to be, key influencers, like our politicians and academics and media outlets.

    Crucial are the ‘independent’ scientists and academics who tout the whiz-bang wonders of GMOs, while also enjoying Monsanto’s largess. It’s a practice Monsanto employed in the 1980s when it was under fire for the toxic, mutagenic effects of Agent Orange.

    It took four decades for the World Health Organization (WHO) to list glyphosate as a ‘probable’ carcinogen and knowing the WHO for what it is, that really took some doing. The WHO had no choice but to capitulate minimally in the face of indisputable research materials that outed Monsanto for what it truly was. Interestingly enough, the EPA listed glyphosate as a possible carcinogen from 1985 to 1991. But that was reversed – some believe ‘mysteriously’ – when the science was called into question. Now Monsanto’s multimillionaire CEO Hugh Grant predictably questions the WHO’s science. And finally the FDA has been spurred into testing for glyphosate in food.

    Glyphosate has shown up in nearly everything, including: German beers, German dairy cows, actual Germans, French panty liners and tampons, a shocking number of American waterways, 75% of air and rain samples in Mississippi and, quite predictably, in ‘high levels’ on 70% of genetically modified soy.

    As Douglas Main reported in Newsweek, humans have used enough glyphosate “to spray nearly half a pound of Roundup on every cultivated acre of land in the world.” Meanwhile, as the debate rages over genetically modified food, the real issue is whether or not the next best move after drenching the planet in pesticides, fungicides and herbicides is to then start pumping out RNAi bio-pesticides and spraying RNAi messages onto plants. But that’s a debate we’re not having, and why not? The answer is Monsanto’s largesse and political lobbying.

    Sadly, this non-debate reflects a casual willingness to use poison that ultimately drives the entire agrochemical model. Monsanto is banking on the farmers who escalate their war on their own fields and on the trigger-happy consumers who don’t realize that convenience is their true enemy. Most importantly of all, Monsanto’s power comes from the scientists who should know better than to relentlessly challenge Mother Nature to an evolutionary showdown.

    For those who haven’t heard of RNAi, its Monsanto’s newer and deadlier gambit, please see my post above and then imagine the kind of world we will be living in, ditto our kids too, if this Monsanto menace is not brought to it’s knees real soon and completely evicted from our living space.

    • Rosebud

      Thank you Ma/Sir, and may God bless you abundantly.

  • egoigwe

    Is Monsanto ‘evil’? Just pop that question into Google and you’ll find out quickly why Monsanto ranks near the top of every ‘most hated company’ list. But that has never stopped it getting its way with the people that matter – politicians and regulators. And now the company is on the verge of its biggest victory ever – winning clearance to spray biologically active RNA sequences on US crops.
    Monsanto is upgrading the Borg. It’s called the ‘BioDirect’ initiative and it will eliminate costly resistance to glyphosate, eradicate vexingly resilient insects with biopesticides and even modify the genetic code of a plant by simply spritzing it with an RNA-infused surfactant spray.

    So, while we are all fixated on glyphosate, Monsanto prepares its next GM trick: RNA pesticides. The technology is called ‘RNA interference’ (RNAi) and it heralds a brave new world of profitability for agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto. It also opens a Pandora’s Box full of as-yet unanswered ethical questions about genetic drift, patenting plants on the fly and, most ominously, whether RNAi can, should or will be weaponized like another Monsanto product – Agent Orange.

    RNAi technology hijacks DNA’s messenger system – the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that carries out DNA’s instructions. In effect, RNAi sends human-made messages that can, in turn, alter or kill its target by scrambling cellular functions, turning off organs, dropping resistance to a herbicide (glyphosate) or altering the DNA’s command system to produce an artificial gene expression.

    BioDirect is an end run around the DNA-altering process Monsanto used to create Roundup Ready crops and ‘Bt’ corn and cotton. Bt-infused crops have the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin built directly into the plant. That toxic protein kills hungry insects. But, like Roundup-doused weeds, insects are developing resistance to Bt crops. Whether it’s lice in Texas, bacteria in India or super-weeds choking American farms, resistance to human-made poison is literally a textbook response by Mother Nature. Now this predictable evolutionary response is casting a pall over the agribusiness model.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out that the super-weed ‘plague’ overshadows “60 million acres of U.S. cropland” and is “wreaking environmental havoc, driving up farmers’ costs and prompting them to resort to more toxic weed-killers.” Even worse, scientists at the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds found “467 unique cases of herbicide resistant weeds globally” and that weeds evolved resistance to “160 different herbicides” in “86 crops in 66 countries.”

    So here’s the upshot: Using poison causes the farmers using the poison to have to buy ever-more toxic poison to deal with the resistance caused by the use of poison. Go figure. Of course, Monsanto’s scientists assured the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1993 that glyphosate posed a “low risk for weed resistance.”

    Now, instead of conceding and working with nature, they are counterattacking with RNAi technology. Why? Because sales are flagging. The market is literally oversaturated with glyphosate. And Monsanto wants to extend the life and profitability of Roundup by knocking out resistance at the cellular level.

    As a result, we face the unknown consequences of introducing a tidal wave of RNA into ecosystems that are not adapted to a sudden influx of genetic
    messages. Just think about that for a minute. Antonio Regalado pointed out in MIT Technology Review, “RNA may be natural … but introducing large amounts of targeted RNA molecules into the environment is not.”

  • GusO

    Your editorial is clear and to the point. Can you please send a copy to Aso Rock? PMB may be unaware of the perfidy about to be committed by three of his ministers with the support of the unqualified and corrupt biotech/biosafety regulatory agencies. Send it to his press officers and Abba Kyari, his COS.

  • Opuah A.O

    Where are all this scientist from? what about the problem of making agriculture sustainable by practicing it in such a way that promotes environmental sustainability? what about effects of climate change or we have no faith in climate change too? can we just make our priorities on this issues straight? are we attacking the company or the technology, so all scientist that hold the opinion that GMOs are save are affiliated to monsanto and those against are the saints? please can you tell us how many times Monsanto has offered to bribe you so you share their opinion about GMOs? As much as they are reports of the threats of GMOs, they are thosands of reports on its safety from reputable institutions. Can we narrow down our debates to facts, so Nigerians can be properly guided. Its a technology not a commodity, and i believe Nigerians should be properly informed to make the right choice.

    • Rosebud

      “Its a technology not a commodity, and i believe Nigerians should be properly informed to make the right choice.” Opuah A.O

      Your ignorance is self-evident. So, you think technology is not a commodity? Do you even know what a commodity is? How does anyone impact complex, bio-botanical information to one that doesn’t even know what a commodity is? What is your definition of a reputable institution and as upheld by who or what? Go and get yourself a proper education and then come back, perhaps then your contributions would be more meaningful. Even if your entire grey matter was passed through an educational wringer, it’d make no difference as per enhancing your severe mental deficiency.

  • Watch man

    Hungary has taken a strong stance against GMOs. In fact, the country’s Constitution says:

    “Hungary shall promote the effective application of the right referred to in Paragraph (1) by an agriculture free of genetically modified organisms, by ensuring access to healthy food and drinking water, by organising safety at work and healthcare provision, by supporting sports and regular physical exercise, as well as by ensuring the protection of the environment.”

    In 2011, Hungary burnt 1,000 acres of GMO corn field in a bid to rid the country of GMO products, and they are still doing till today. If Monsanto’s GMO is that good, why would the government of a whole country legislate against GMO?