The Health of Mother Earth Foundation has attributed the illegal shipment of 25,750 metric tons of genetically modified maize worth an estimated $3.7 million into Nigeria to the attitude of the federal government towards genetically modified foods.
Nnimmo Bassey, the group’s director, said in a statement on Thursday that the discovery is an indication that more GMO foods and products may have slipped into the country undetected.
“We are worried that this incident may just be a fraction of other undetected arrival of unauthorised foods into Nigeria, including those of the genetically modified varieties,” Mr. Bassey.
The National Biosafety Agency on Wednesday raised alarm over tons of GM maize imported into Nigeria through the Lagos ports without approval.
According to Rufus Ebeagba, the agency’s Director General, the government discovered the shipments through an intelligence report.
It was learnt that a second shipment from a vessel named Zola had berthed at the Lagos ports, after the first ship, with 42,900 metric tons of maize valued at $6.1 million.
“Nigerians should be alarmed at these incidents because whoever imported these illegal shipments may have done so due to the preponderant attitude of government that Nigeria is open to GMOs and that there is nothing to worry about GMOs,” said Mr. Bassey.
The HOMEF is one of the civil society groups at the forefront of the campaigns against the introduction of genetically modified foods into the country. The group argues that Nigerian farmers have the capacity to meet the food needs of Nigerians if they are supported with extension services, processing and storage facilities as well as adequate rural infrastructure.
“What happened to Nigeria’s pre-shipment procedures?” asked Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, Chair of Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.
“These GMOs should not have been authorized to head to Nigerian ports in the first instance.”
The groups urged the NBMA and the Nigerian Customs to ensure the illegal consignments are impounded and destroyed.
“NBMA should equally conduct market audits to ensure that crops, foods and feeds that have genetically modified traits have not been sneaked into the country,” Mr. Bassey added.