A group, the Global Prolife Alliance, on Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to fire the board and management of the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA.
The chairman of the group, Philip Njemanze, made the call in Owerri, Imo State, on Tuesday while addressing journalists.
Mr. Njemanze hinged the call for the sack of the leadership of the agency on the issuance of two permits for the introduction of genetically modified crops in the country.
Despite public outcry, the NBMA had issued permits for commercial release cotton, MON 15985, genetically modified for lepidopteran insect pest resistance and Confined Field Trial (CFT) of maize, NK603 and MON 89034 x NK603, genetically modified for insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.
The two permits, posted on the NBMA website, is signed by agency’s Director-General, Rufus Ebegba.
It is said to have been issued to Monsanto Africulture Nigeria Limited on May 1, 2016, which was a work-free day in the country.
Mr. Njemanze said the action was in total disregard for the safety concerns regarding GMOs crops expressed by leading governments around the world.
He argued that some of the countries, who have rejected the technology have had firsthand experience with genetically modified maize.
According to him, France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Luxemburg, Austria, Hungary and Greece have banned the same insect-resistant corn variety citing environmental concerns.
He quoted the German Agricultural Minister, Ilse Aigner, who banned the cultivation of GMO corn and the sale of its seeds, as saying that she had “legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810 posed a danger to the environment”.
On its part, he said French scientists headed by Gilles-Eric Seralini, established that the effects of GMO crops were similar to that of pesticides, including inflammation disorders and severe toxicity to liver and kidney.
Again, he said Hungarian scientists headed by Professor Bela Darvas of Debrecen University had shown that Monsanto MON 810 is lethal to two Hungarian protected species and one insect classified as rare.
“Maize is a wind-pollinated plant so could cause serious devastation to the environment, since wind that can transport GMO pollens or seeds would contaminate the entire environment,” said Mr. Njemanze.
“The recklessness in approval of use of pesticides and GMO crops in Nigeria led to dangerous contamination of food in Nigeria. These approvals were granted despite warnings from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
“In August 2015, the European Food Safety Authority detected a 460 times above lethal limits of a very toxic and cancerogenic pesticide in food import from Nigeria.
“The levels detected ranged from concentrations of 0.03mg per kilogramme to 4.6mg/kg of dichlorvos pesticide, when the acceptable maximum residue limit is 0.01mg/kg.”
He argued that the dangerous levels of pesticides for GMOs sink to the water aquifer, killing aquatic life and poisoning drinking water for humans and animals.
Based on its findings, he said the European Union banned many food imports from Nigeria, resulting in loss of huge revenue and under performance of the agricultural sector with regard to its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
He further argued that the National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015, is not compliant with the Cartagena Protocol to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
Mr. Njemanze said the convention is based on the Precautionary Principle designed to protect human health, the environment and biodiversity from the risks posed by GMOs.
Continuing, he said, “As a way to further improve biosafety laws in African countries, African leaders also drafted an African Model Law on Biosafety, to give guidance to African governments, in the drafting of their national laws on biosafety.
“The African Model Law sets a higher benchmark for biosafety for Africa. Nigeria was party to the African Union, AU, Summit in July 2003, where member states were formally urged to use the African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology as a basis for drafting their national instruments on biosafety.
“However, undue interference from international biotechnology companies through corruption in government in Nigeria has led to permits for unhindered introduction of GMOs foods with no thorough health and environmental impact studies.
“The recent actions of the management of the NBMA are clear manifestations of the undue interference by biotechnology firms who dictate the actions of their government regulators.
“These actions of the NBMA are dangerous and unpatriotic. They are in violation of food and environmental safety laws in Nigeria.
“These actions of NBMA display total incompetence and unprofessionalism by the management, and calls into question their fitness to administer such a crucial job of securing the food security of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”