Nigeria not ready for GMO foods ― Nnimmo Bassey

The current drive for genetically modified organisms (GMO) foods in Nigeria should be halted because the country lacks the right regulatory, policy and socio-economic conditions for it.

This was the stance of Dr Nnimmo Bassey, director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), who spoke at a media training on Promoting Nigeria’s Biosafety in Lagos, last week.

According to him, the biotechnology law in Nigeria was defective, and modern biotechnology should be focused on medicine in Nigeria.

Bassey said that it was odd for Nigeria to embrace GMO foods at a time many countries in including some in Africa were rejecting them.

He explained that in countries were GMO foods were being sold, they were properly labelled, therefore, buyers had a choice whether to purchase GMOs or go for organic food.

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“However, if Nigeria, GMO beans, for example, is introduced to farmers, is cultivated and sold openly in the open market, how would it be labelled for people to choose? When these beans is bought and processed into Akara (bean cakes), how would it be labelled so that people can make a choice to buy GMO Akara or organic akara?” He asked.

Bassey said that the way we produce and market food does not allow for appropriate labelling.

“If you can’t have the choice then we don’t need GMOs in Nigeria,” he said.

“We need to consider our socio-economic factors when making laws.”

The HOMEF director, who gave a presentation titled, “Is Nigeria ready for the emerging technologies- gene drives, synthetic biology?” refuted the assertion that GMO foods were the solution to global food shortage, saying that there is more than enough food to feed double the world population today. He said the fear being raised about food shortage was unreal.

While noting that large scale farming was touted to be the way to go to feed the nation, he quoted a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report that 80 per cent of food produced globally was done by small-scale farmers who utilise only 25 per cent of cultivated land.

He added that if the average girl-child received education up to secondary school level, she would not have up to 10 children, thereby curbing excessive population growth in the country.

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