Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), researchers, farmers, nutritionists and consumer groups have urged the Senate to proceed with the bill for an amendment to the National Biosafety Management Agency Act (NBMA)(Amended 2019).
The call was made following the public hearing on the bill, which held on August 31 and September 1, 2022. The coalition, in a statement signed by 78 CSOs and made available to the The Guardian in Port Harcourt, yesterday, condemned the fact that there was no real representation of CSOs and farmers at the public hearing, stressing that the amendment to the bill is vital to the protection of Nigeria’s biosafety, genetic/nutritional diversity, the rights of local food producers, and economic resilience.
Earlier, the group commended the Senate for proposing the amendment bill, saying: “It is a step in the right direction for consumers, especially for small holder farmers, who are directly impacted by GMOs and associated chemicals, and yet have little or no knowledge or choice about the entry of these unnatural varieties into our food system or of their potential risks.”
The Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, stated that those against the bill had demonstrated utter disregard for the environment and the well-being of the people.
He stressed that the bill, in its current state, is anti-people and does not protect the consumers or farmers’ interest and allows all sorts of genetically-modified products into the country with lax regulation.
Also, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation for Africa (CAPPA) noted that science must be in the interest of the people, the general public and not just a few industry players.
Oluwafemi added that having strict regulations of GMOs in Nigeria means utilising science in a way consistent with standards of biosafety, ethics and good judgment.
The Coordinator of the Food Sovereignty Programme at Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Africa, Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, also noted the lack of strict provision on the Precautionary Principle, the absence of strict liability, the conflicting composition of the board of the NBMA (with the National Biotechnology Development Agency as as well other promoters of GMOs on it) and provisions permitting the Agency to receive gifts from various sources are just a few of the gaps in the watered-down NBMA Act that this bill seeks to address).
He said: “If promoters of GMOs are so proud of their products, why do they have such a morbid fear of strict regulation? If the technology is as safe as they claim, then it should meet up with the standards of safety and accountability.”
The groups encouraged lawmakers to proceed with the amendment bill and not give up nor give in to pressure from the purveyors of GMOs and accompanying toxic chemicals.