Genetically modified crops adoption: Stakeholders seek consumers’ education
As Nigeria prepare to commercialise some of the Genetically Modified Crops (GMO) approved for environmental release by National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), stakeholders have called for education of consumers to be able to make choices when purchasing foods in the market.
The stakeholders also called for labelling of foods which contains Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) so that consumers can easily distinguish them from organic foods.
During a Dialogue Workshop on GMO foods, the Director-General of Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) Babatunde Irukera said there was the need to deepen the dialogue on the GMO controversy in order to get a clearer sense of what it is.
He said consumers should have absolute information about the choices they make while purchasing either GM foods or organic foods.
“Our position is pretty simple, that we are looking for the safest possible products for consumers, I think there is a disputed science with respect to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and so we think this is an opportunity to deepen the dialogue and promote the controversy so that we can get clearer sense of what it is.
“At the minimum we take the position that there should be disclosure and consumers should have absolute information about the choices they are making, and when there is a choice between something that is genetically modified and something that is organic, the consumers can make that choice themselves, but that should be an informed choice, they should recognize what is organic and what is genetically modified,” he said.
Chenemi Faith, the head of Barns Connect who is the Co-convener of the Dialogue, said they had been monitoring the debates around GM technology and is making efforts to collect evidence and perceptions of the technology.
“Over the year’s, Barns Connect have followed research, news and debates around Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) at both international and local levels. We are aware and are making efforts to collect evidence and perceptions on GMO.
“As an organization, we know the controversy on GMO in Nigeria, considering the realities of our country from our porous borders dwindling revenue, inadequate and poor human and social infrastructural facilities to drive high-level research and training on these issues and the pressure from rising poverty and corruption.
“Our thinking, action and recommendation must take cognizance of these realities, else it becomes impossible to make headway with good legitimate support,” she said.
Noting that GM technology has benefits and shortfalls, she maintain that Nigerian consumers deserve to know what they are eating. She however called for proper labelling of GM products after production.
“The facts are undeniable, GM technology has its benefits as well as shortfalls. And to confirm its threats or associated risk, enormous resource needs to be channelled towards risk assessments and increase public awareness.
“We believe we can achieve greater benefits when we find a middle ground that best positions Nigerians to achieve only the best good from both GM-science and the safety of all Nigerian people.
“Every Nigerian consumer deserves to know what they are eating. They have the right to choose whether they want to eat GM or organic food, no matter the cost. They only way to ensure that’s for strict labelling laws to be enforced on food products, and this should go beyond the 4 per cent limit set by existing law.
“We believe our biotechnology and Biosafety agency have the interest of the people at heart, therefore we urge our agencies to be more transparent and open to Nigerians in their researches and scientific methods adopted,” she added.