Nigerians are forced to consume genetically modified (GM) food without their knowledge or consent.
This claim was recently made by Nnimmo Bassey, the director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) during a press conference in Lagos.
During the briefing hosted by HOMEF, it was noted that there have been several approvals, up to 20, for imports of genetically modified foods into the country between 2015 so far.
According to HOMEF, these approvals were granted by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) established in 2015.
“We are concerned that insufficient risk assessment has been performed for these genetically modified foods. HOMEF has written to the agency to provide risk assessment information for various products before they were approved for import. The answer is: go to the website. From time to time we have checked the website and the information is not there,” noted Joyce Brown, HOMEF program manager.
“That’s why we say that we as a country are being ambushed to use GM foods,” she added, noting that the NBMA had no reports on the long-term effects of the approved GM foods on human health.
The issue of labeling was also raised. “It is not possible to get the labeling right because of the way we consumed food in Nigeria. For example, the GM beans that were imported, will a market woman label the beans in a basin as GM beans? We cannot label akara made from genetically modified beans as genetically modified akara. Will restaurants label moin-moin as made from genetically modified beans?” said Brown.
The HOMEF official also noted that genetically modified cowpea had been distributed to farmers across the country without farmers being told that the variety of cowpea (beans) is genetically modified.
Given the lack of long-term studies on the effects of genetically modified foods, Bassey stated that “the precautionary principle must be respected.
“If there is any doubt, there is no point in pushing Nigerians into areas that are largely unknown and that will have negative impacts on our health and the environment.”
In a related development, HOMEF, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), and others have praised the Senate for considering a bill to amend the NBMA Act in general. importance of protecting food safety and public interests in Nigeria.
The civil society organizations also denounced the recently granted license to Trigall Genetics SA to import genetically modified wheat (HB4 Wheat) into the country. The coalition statement demanded that the licenses be revoked and that the NBMA no longer act as a gateway for unnecessary and risky GM products in Nigeria.
However, during the briefing, Bassey sounded the alarm about attempts to scuttle the NBMA bill review by promoters of genetically modified foods.