No fewer than 100 rights groups and faith-based organisations have opposed attempts to introduce genetically modified (GM) cotton and maize into Nigeria’s food and farming systems.
In a petition submitted to the National Biosafety Management Agency, NABMA, the groups cited many serious health and environmental concerns and the failure of these crops especially GM cotton in Africa.
The petition was signed on behalf of the groups by Mariann Orovwuje, food sovereignty manager, Environmental Rights Action, ERA and Friends of the Earth International and Nnimmo Bassey, director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HoMEF.
The action followed an application by Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited to NABMA for the release of genetically modified cotton (Bt cotton, event MON 15985) into markets in Zaria and other towns in Kaduna State.
The company also applied for the confined field trial (CFT) of two genetically modified maize varieties, (NK603 and stacked event MON 89034 x NK603) in multiple locations in the country.
But in their objection to the commercial release of the products in Nigeria, the rights groups raised the alarm that the move was coming after the dismal failures of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso.
Mr. Bassey of HoMEF said, “We are totally shocked that it should come so soon after peer reviewed studies have showed that the technology has failed dismally in Burkina Faso.
“It has brought nothing but economic misery to the cotton sector there and is being phased out in that country where compensation is being sought from Monsanto.”
Since Nigeria’s Biosafety law came into effect a few days before the end of former President Goodluck Jonathan government, Mr. Bassey wondered which legislation was used to authorise and regulate field trials in the past in accordance with international law and best biosafety practice.
He noted that Mr. Jonathan hastily signed the National Biosafety Management Bill into law, in the twilight days of his tenure in office.
The groups also expressed worry over the alleged conflict of interests displayed by country’s regulatory agencies.
Instead of remaining impartial and regulating the sector for the interest of the public, the groups said NAMBA was publicly supporting the introduction of GMOs into the country.
It insisted that the Monsanto’s GM maize application is in respect of a stacked event, including the herbicide tolerant trait intended to confer tolerance to the use of the herbicide, glyphosate.
On March 20, 2015, the group said the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, the WHO’s specialized cancer agency, assessed the radiation level of glysophate and concluded that it was cancerous.
“There is also increasing scientific evidence that glyphosate poses serious risks to the environment,” Mr. Bassey said.
On her part, Mrs Orovwuje, the Friends of the Earth International’s Food Sovereignty co-coordinator, said, “Should commercialization of Monsanto’s GM maize be allowed pursuant to field trials, this will result in increased use of glyphosate in Nigeria, a chemical that is linked to causing cancer in humans.
“Recent studies have linked glyphosate to health effects such as degeneration of the liver and kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That NABMA is even considering this application is indeed unfortunate and deeply regrettable, knowing the uncontrolled exposure that our rural farmers and communities living close to farms will be exposed to.”
The groups argued that Monsanto’s application provided no discussion on the potential risks of glysophate use to human and animal health and the environment.
Apart from the potential of contaminating local varieties, the groups argued that the health risk of introducing genetically modified maize into Nigeria was enormous considering the fact that maize is a staple majority of Nigerians depend on.
They, however, urged the federal government to reject Monsanto’s applications, arguing that that there is a serious lack of capacity to adequately control and monitor the human and environmental risks of GM crops and glyphosate.
The situation is even worsened by the fact that the country has no platform for testing food materials and products for glyphosate or other pesticide residues, or an agency to monitor their impact on the environment including water resources.
Groups Endorsing the Objection to Monsanto’s applications inclue:
1. All Nigeria Consumers Movement Union (ANCOMU)
2. Committee on Vital Environmental Resources (COVER)
3. Community Research and Development Centre (CRDC)
4. Ijaw Mothers of Warri
5. Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN)
6. Host Communities Network of Nigeria (HoCoN)
7. Oilwatch Nigeria
8. Green Alliance, Nigeria
9. African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development
10. Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL)
11. Women Environmental Programme (WEP)
12. Persons with Disabilities Action Network (PEDANET)
13. Students Environmental Assembly of Nigeria (SEAN)
14. Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)
15. Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF)
16. KebetKache Women Development and Resource Centre
17. Federation of Urban Poor (FEDUP)
18. Community Forest Watch (CFW)
19. The Young Environmentalist Network (TYEN)
20. Women’s Rights to Education Program (WREP)
21. Community Action for Public Action (CAPA)
22. Peoples Advancement Centre (ADC) Bori
23. Social Action
24. SPEAK Nigeria
25. Host Communities Network
26. Urban Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED)
27. Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI)
28. Women’s Right to Education Programme (WREP)
29. Foundation for Rural/Urban Integration (FRUIT)
30. Community Action for Popular Participation
31. Torjir-Agber Foundation (TAF)
32. Civil Society on Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE),
33. Jireh Doo foundation
34. Advocate for Community Vision and Development( ACOVID)
35. Initiative for empowerment for vulnerable(IEV)
36. Kwaswdoo Foundation Initiative (KFI)
37. Environment and Climate Change Amelioration Initiative) ECCAI
38. Manna Love and care Foundation (MLC)
39. Okaha Women and children development Organisation(OWCDO)
41. Glorious things ministry(GTM)
42. Daughters of Love Foundation
43. Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN)
44. Community Links and Empowerment Initiative(CLHEI)
45. Nigerian Women in Agriculture (NAWIA)
46. Osa foundation
47. Initiative for Improved Health and Wealth Creation (IIHWC)
48. Peace Health Care Initiative (PHCI)
49. Ochilla Daughters Foundation (ODF)
50. African Health Project (AHP)
51. Artists in Development
52. Ramberg Child Survival Initiative (RACSI)
53. Global Health and Development initiative
54. First Step Initiative (FIP)
55. Ruhujukan Environment Development Initiative (REDI)
56. The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development(CEHRD), Nigeria
57. Center for Children’s Health Education, Orientation Protection (CEE Hope)and CEEHOPE Nigeria
58. Next Generation Youth Initiative (NGI)
59. Akwa Ibom Information and Research Organisation (AIORG)
60. Rural Action for Green Environment (RAGE)
61. United Action for Democracy
62. Campaign for Democracy
63. Yasuni Association
64. Egi Joint Action Congress
65. Green Concern for Development (Greencode)
66. Kebetkache Ahoada Women Farmers Cooperative
67. Ahoada Uzutam Women Farmers Cooperative
68. Ogboaku Ahoada Farmers Cooperative
69. Gbobia Feefeelo women
70. Ovelle Nyakovia Women Cooperative
71. Rumuekpe Women Prayer Warriors
72. League of Queens
73. Emem Iban Oku Iboku
74. Uchio Mpani Ibeno
75. Rural Health and Women Development
76. Women Initiative on Climate Change
77. Peoples’ Centre
78. Citizens Trust Advocacy and Development Centre (CITADEC)
79. Centre for Environment Media and Development Communications
80. Centre for Dignity
81. Peace and Development Project
82. Triumphant Foundation
83. Earthcare Foundation
84. Lokiakia Centre
85. Community Development and Advocacy Foundation (CODAF)
86. Citizens Centre
87. Development Strategies
88. Rainforest Research and Development Center
89. Center for Environmental Education and Development (CEED)
90. Initiative for the Elimination of Violence Against Women & Children (IEVAWC)
91. Charles and Doosurgh Abaagu Foundation
92. Community Emergency Response Initiative
93. Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN)
94. Shacks and Slum Dwellers Association of Nigeria
95. Atan Justice, Development and Peace Centre
96. Sisters of Saint Louis Nigeria
97. Life Lift Nigeria
98. Community Research and Development Foundation (CDLF)
99. Environmental rights Action Friends of the Earth Nigeria ( ERA/ FoEN)
100. Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)