The Global Prolife Alliance (GPA) in a press conference with journalists on 13th June, 2016, at Owerri called on President Mohammadu Buhari to sack of the management and board of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA). This was provoked by the issuance of two permits for genetically modified organisms crops (GMOs): (1) Permit for Commercial release/Placing on Market of Cotton (MON 15985) genetically modified for lepidopteran insect pest resistance” with Permit No: NBMA/CM/IM/001; (2) Permit for Confined Field Trial (CFT) of maize (NK603 and MON 89034 x NK603) genetically modified for insect resistance and herbicide tolerance with Permit No: NBMA/CFT/001. These two permits have been posted on the NBMA website, signed by Director-General of NBMA, Mr Rufus Ebegba on May 1, 2016 (a public holiday) and issued to Monsanto Africulture Nigeria Limited.
This is in total disregard for the food safety concerns regarding GMOs crops expressed by leading governments around the world, who have had first hand experience with genetically modified maize. These governments including eight EU members states (France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Luxemburg, Austria, Hungary and Greece), have banned the same insect-resistant corn variety citing environmental concerns.
The German Agricultural Minister Ilse Aigner announced she was banning not only the cultivation of GMO corn but also the sale of its seeds, saying she has “legitmate reasons to believe that MON 810 posed a danger to the environment”.
French scientists headed by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini have established that the effects of GMO crops were similar to that of pesticides, including inflamation disorders and severe toxicity to liver and kidney.
Hungarian scientists headed by Professor Bela Darvas of Debrecen University have 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.
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. These dangerous levels of pesticides for GMOs sink to the water aquifer killing aquatic life and poisoning drinking water for humans and animals. Consequently, the European Union banned many food imports from Nigeria, resulting in loss of millions of USD in revenue in hard currency and hence the under performance of the entire agricultural sector with regard to contribution of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015 is not compliant with the Cartagena Protocol to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Nigeria is a signatory to this binding UN Treaty along with 168 countries. It came into force on 11th September, 2003. This UN Convention is based on the important Precautionary Principle designed to protect human health, the environment and biodiversity from the risks posed by GMOs. 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.
Press Release was signed by:
Academician Prof Dr Philip C. Njemanze MD
Chairman, Global Prolife Alliance (GPA)