From 2016 when the first formal approvals were issued by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Nigeria has turned out to be the gaping hole through which the flood of GMOs are dumped, threatening the entire continent. Besides the crops approved for field testing, commercial release, or use for food and feed processing, several products pass on to our market shelves through the porous hands of regulatory agencies.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have had their genetic material-deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering. In first generation genetic engineering, scientists remove one or more genes from DNA of an organism, such as bacterium, virus, animal or plant and “recombine” them into the DNA of another organism. For instance, genetic scientists have transferred genes from a bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into the DNA of crops. Recently, gene editing techniques allow for an organism’s genetic sequence to be edited within itself.
Staple crops such as cassava, maize and cowpea are targeted, and the public is yet to see any evidence that any application has been turned down in Nigeria. There is also no evidence that objections to advertised applications sent by consumers and the general public are considered. While research shows no comparative advantage of genetically modified crops over natural and conventional varieties, the myth continues to be peddled that because they are engineered in the laboratory, they have higher yields and are more nutritious. The false arguments are backed up years of colonial brainwashing that whatever big industry and big capital present must be accepted without question.
Today, there are lessons to be learned from several litigations in the USA over cancers believed to be caused by the chemical components of herbicides to which some GM crops are designed to resist. Today the world is reeling in a pandemic with several pointers to the destruction of habitats and biological diversity as the cause. Today we also know that virulent microorganisms can be genetically engineered for use as biological weapons. Today it is also known that biological diversity is the key to environmental and human health, prosperity and wellbeing. Biodiversity supports cultural diversity and the erosion of one erodes the other. The implications are deep and include loss of cultural memory and knowledge.
This compilation (of articles written between 2016 and 2020) is prepared as a popular reader to contribute to the debate on the implications of letting our biosafety guards down in a tricky moment in history. We hope that readers will come up with questions and also decide on which side they will stand, with nature or with entities who care for nothing but profit.
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