Over 75 Civil Society Organizations from Nigeria, Africa and other countries in the world have condemned moves to open the way for the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Nigeria.

On Friday 6 June 2020, at a virtual meeting of the West African Integrated Vector Management Programme, Rufus Ebegba, who is the Vice Chairman of the Programme and Director of Nigeria’s National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) stated[i] “there is the need to accelerate the development of regulatory pathways for genetically based vector control methods such as transgenic mosquitoes.” 

On 30 June 2020, NBMA held a meeting to review the National Guidelines on the Regulation  of Gene Editing where the Director of the agency stated that: “these guidelines are not to impede on the technology but to see how this technology is applied to enhance our economy and to assist the government…”

Reacting to the above, the groups in a press statement made available to the media on 7 July 2020 warn against introduction of the transgenic mosquitoes (as well as other risky and unproven technologies) into Nigeria as such releases pose serious risks to humans, biodiversity and to ecosystem balance. The groups noted that presently there is no peer reviewed assessments for these transgenic mosquitos; no international protocols for evaluating their safety implications and the technology is dependent on and controlled by corporate bodies.

According to the Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, the said regulatory pathways for genetically engineered vector control of mosquitoes are actually rigged pathways to make our environment the test ground for the risky and needless experimentation. “From our experience with genetically modified food crops in Nigeria, having the provisions in place to regulate the release of such organisms is equivalent to express permits for their introduction as the agency responsible for this regulation acts more like a promoter of the technology than a regulator. Nigeria must show leadership in the protection of African biodiversity and not allow an agency of government run amok with whatever technologies promoters suggest to it.” 

Bassey added that tampering with genetic materials of living organisms is already creating problems in the world with the emergence and spread of zoonotic infections occasioned largely by loss of genetic diversity and habitat losses due to such manipulations.

The shortcoming of these transgenic mosquitoes is already evident from the experiments done in Brazil[ii] and in Burkina Faso, stated Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, Coordinator of the Food Sovereignty Program  of Friends of the Earth, Nigeria and Africa. “The release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil between 2013 and 2015 by the biotech company, Oxitec with the plan to reduce the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes is shown to have resulted (in addition to the fact that the population of mosquitoes bounced back after a few months) to unexpected transfer[iii] of genes from the gene-edited mosquitoes to the native insects which gave rise to tougher hybrid species”, she explained.

Further the statement noted: “In July 2019, the genetically modified mosquitoes were released in Bana village in Burkina Faso by the Target Malaria research consortium as an initial test run before the open releases of gene drive mosquitoes, with the aim to reduce population of Anopheles mosquitoes that causes malaria. The failure of this release include the incidental[iv] release of some biting female mosquitoes during the experiments which puts the community people at risk. 

Also, Target Malaria made claims of community acceptance for the project whereas testimonies[v] from community people reveal that they have not been properly informed about the project or its potential risks. This is not different from the experience we have had with genetically modified cowpea and cotton which have been approved for commercial release in Nigeria.

Third, there is no published environmental risk assessment[vi], besides an incomprehensive one published by Target Malaria. Again this has been the case in Nigeria with acclaimed risk assessment done on genetically modified crops as results of such assessments are not made available to the public or subjected to open and transparent consultation. We have no confidence that the situation will be different with the transgenic mosquitoes or that requirements for liability and redress will be enforced.”

It was noted that the release of the GM mosquitoes in Burkina Faso is the first open release in Africa. Nigeria has reviewed (in 2019) its biosafety law to include definitions on extreme technologies including gene drives, so as to pave way for their adoption. This review was speedily proposed and approved despite strenuous objections sent by groups including HOMEF, whereas there have been calls over the years to review the law to close existing fundamental gaps which make it impossible for it to serve the interests of the people. 

“While we appreciate that malaria is a problem in Nigeria and many other nations and that urgent measures to address it are needed, we believe that transgenic mosquitoes are not the solution.  GM mosquitoes are a relatively new application of GM technology and present very different risks, and for which the international community has had virtually no risk assessment or regulatory experience. Nigeria does not need GMOs and no matter what their sponsors claim, we don’t have the capacity nor experience to dabble into this new, unfamiliar and risky technology.” The statement stressed.

The undersigned groups condemn any move to introduce the transgenic mosquitoes or any other gene edited organisms into Nigeria. They assert that our regulatory agencies should not sell us off as guinea pigs for risky technologies such as gene drives which have potential to wipe off whole populations of species and to be used as a biological weapon. Rather, let government support natural vector control measures which are safe and effective including by  providing better sanitation and housing for underserved Nigerians.

Signed by

  1. Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)-Nigeria
  2. GMO-Free Nigeria
  3. Corporate Accountability and Public Participation  Africa (CAPPA)-Nigeria
  4. Initiative for Participation Accountability and Incisive Development (I-PAID)
  5. Women Environment and Youth Development Initiative(WOYODEV)-Nigeria
  6. Green Alliance Nigeria (GAN)-Nigeria
  7. Urban-Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED)-Nigeria
  8. Chido and Chatta Consults-Nigeria
  9. Surge Africa Organisation- Nigeria
  10. Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre-Nigeria
  11. Eco Defenders Network-Nigeria
  12. The Young Environmentalist Network(TYEN)-Nigeria
  13. COVER-Nigeria
  14. Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association.(NIWAAFA)-Nigeria
  15. Youth and Small Holder Farmers Association-Nigeria
  16. Water Consumers Forum-Nigeria
  17. Imaap Projects-Nigeria
  18. Rural Alliance for Green Environment (RAGE)-Nigeria
  19. Women Against Violence and Exploitation (WAVE)-Nigeria
  20. African Faith and Justice Network (AFJN)-Nigeria
  21. Binec Herbson Development Foundation
  22. Assumption Foundation for Integral Human Development-Nigeria
  23. Action Initiative (AOD)-Nigeria
  24. Jelu Newbreed Foundation-Nigeria
  25. Concerned Citizens-Nigeria
  26. Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI)-Nigeria
  27. Gender and Community Empowerment Initiative (GECOME)-Nigeria
  28. Women and Children Life Advancement Initiative (WACLAI)-Nigeria
  29. Women and Youth in Agriculture-Nigeria
  30. West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF)
  31. NGOs in Health-Nigeria
  32. Nigerian UHC Actions Network (NUHCAN)
  33. Women GlobalStrike-Nigeria
  34. Nigerian Farmers Forum-Nigeria
  35. Akachukwu Coperative Farmers-Nigeria
  36. Safe Food and Feed Foundation-Nigeria
  37. Grass to Amazing Favour Global Foundation (GRAFF)-Nigeria
  38. Environment and Climate Change Amelioration Initiative (ECCAI)-Nigeria
  39. Good Health Living Environmental Foundation (GOHLEF)-Nigeria
  40. Angel Support Foundation (ASF)-Nigeria
  41. Fosbys Environmental Services Limited-Nigeria
  42. Community Links and Human Empowerment Initiative (CLEHI)-Nigeria
  43. BFA Multipurpose Cooperative Society-Nigeria
  44. Climate Transformation and Energy Remediation Society (CLIMATTERS)-Nigeria
  45. Fosbys Cooperative Society Limited-Nigeria
  46. Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group)-Canada
  47. Friends of the Earth, Africa
  48. Food Sovereignty Ghana
  49. GRAIN-Uganda
  50. World Family (UK)
  51. Pan-Africanist International
  52. Gaia Foundation-London
  53. Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)-Uganda
  54. The African Biodiversity Network (ABN)-Kenya
  55. The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB)-South Africa
  56. West African Association for the Development of Artisanal Fisheries (ADEPA)-Senegal
  57. Coalition for the Protection of Africa’s Genetic Heritage (COPAGEN)
  58. West African Committee of Peasant Seeds (COASP)-Senegal
  59. Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development (COMPAS Africa)
  60. Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF)-Tanzania
  61. Fahamu Africa
  62. Groundswell West Africa
  63. The Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA)
  64. Inades-Formation
  65. The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC)-South Africa
  66. Young Volunteers for the Environment (YVE)-Togo
  67. Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM)-Uganda
  68. La Via Campesina (LVC)-Zimbabwe
  69. World Neighbors-USA
  70. Network of Farmers ‘and Producers’ Organizations in West Africa (ROPPA)
  71. Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA)
  72. The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)-South Africa
  73. PROPAC-Cameroon
  74. African Union of Consumers (AUC)-Chad
  75. Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture Programme(ReSCOPE)-Zimbabwe
  76. Biowatch South Africa
  77. Banana Link-UK
  78. Prof. Ignacio Chapela, PhD
  79. EcoNexus
  80. Washington Biotechnology Action Council-USA


[i]Biosafety regulators to develop pathways for transgenic mosquitoes https://www.environewsnigeria.com/biosafety-regulators-to-develop-regulatory-pathways-for-transgenic-mosquitoes/

[ii] Failed GM mosquito control experiment may have strengthened wild bugs. https://newatlas.com/science/genetic-engineering-mosquito-experiment-goes-wrong/

[iii] Transgenic Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Transfer Genes into a Natural Population. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-49660-6

[iv] ‘We don’t want to be guinea pigs’: how one African community is fighting genetically modified mosquitoes. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/dont-want-guinea-pigs-one-african-community-fighting-genetically/

[v] A Question of Consent: Exterminator Mosquitoes in Burkina Faso”. 2018. A film by ETC Group. http://www.etcgroup.org/content/target-malarias-gene-drive-project-fails-inform-local-communities-risks-new-film

[vi] [iv] “GM mosquitoes in Burkina Faso: a briefing for the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety”. Ibid.

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