Civil society groups, researchers and analysts representing millions of Nigerians have asked the National Biosafety Management Agency to revoke permits recently granted for the commercial release of the TELA Maize.

According to the group, the maize variety which has been genetically modified for drought tolerance and insect resistance is a failed and an unwanted venture and it is only being pushed to Nigeria for commercial interest.

In the statement by the group, the Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nnimmo Bassey described the “Nigerian GMOs promoting set up as a GMOs cult enjoying an alliance with an approving architecture that endorses virtually every application brought to it.” 

 He further stated that this genetically engineered TELA maize has failed to be as productive as conventionally bred drought tolerant varieties in both the USA and South Africa. This TELA maize trial was discontinued and the varieties destroyed in Tanzania in 2018 for failing to confer the promised drought resistance and insect resistance. Regrettably, the giant of Africa has become the giant hole for dumping failed technologies thanks to our permitting regulatory agency. There is no reliable history of safe use of the GM variety to justify its introduction in Nigeria and the claim of drought tolerance and insect resistance remains unsubstantiated.Moreover, routine claims by Nigerian agencies that there are no risks with GM crops are fatuous.”

Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, food sovereignty programme coordinator at Friends of the Earth Nigeria/Environmental Rights Action decried the fact that this TELA maize with events MON 87460 and 89034 will be grown in the same ecological zones that conventional maize is grown, as stated in the application for commercial release. “This is unacceptable. It will lead to contamination of the conventional maize varieties being grown in the vicinity. Wind dispersal and insect dispersal are potential avenues for contamination” she added.

According to Dr Ifeanyi Casmir, a researcher and Molecular Biologist, the process of approval for this maize variety is flawed as no data on the risk assessment conducted by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) is made available (as at the time of writing this) except that which is provided by the applicant. This sort of  “rubber stamping” lacking in scientific and  empirical evidence is unlawful, and amounts to an inhuman biological dumping with incalculable impact on human health and biodiversity.”

A nutritionist and food sovereignty campaigner, Jackie Ikeotuonye explained: “The NBMA has disregarded the socio-economic impacts that may arise as a result of introducing this MON87640 variety to smallholder farmers. Socio-economic studies conducted on the impacts of GM maize in the Eastern Cape of South Africa demonstrate huge economic risks for smallholder farmers. The studies show that non-GM varieties, including open pollinated varieties (OPVs), outperform GM varieties because these OPVs are better adapted to smallholder farmers’ agro-ecological systems, fluctuations in rainfall and suboptimal storage conditions.

MON 87460 stems from a Monsanto/Gates Foundation project, Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA). Although the TELA Maize project is updated with the claim of providing the drought and insect resistant traits royalty-free to small-scale farmers in “Sub-Saharan Africa”, Monsanto will still enforce its intellectual property rights (plant variety protection) on the seed against farmers. This has been made certain by the hurriedly passed Plant Variety Protection Bill 2019. Farmers will lose their conventional seed varieties and their seed sovereignty.”

Mr Bassey further stated that genetic modification is a false solution to drought and other environmental stressors. Like for climate change, real solutions should target the problem from the roots. Our government must urgently support agriculture system based on agro-ecological principles, which take social economic and ecological contexts into account and farmers, not corporate profit, as priorities. The crops best suited for drought tolerance are the indigenous crops which have been developed overtime and well adapted to the Nigerian environment.

The Deputy Executive Director of Women Environment Programme, John Baaki stressed that for insect resistance there are several simple and effective strategies being used by our farmers including through a combination of Neem plant and chili for use as organic pesticides. These methods can be supported and up-scaled by the government.

The groups demand for an urgent reversal of the permits for the commercial release of the TELA Maize and clamours support for smallholder farmers and agroecological practices that play a crucial role in conserving crop diversity and developing varieties of plants that are adapted to a range of weather conditions, including droughts.

This statement is endorsed by:

1. Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)

2. GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance

3. Women Environmental Programme (WEP)

4. BFA Food and Health Limited

5. Corporate Accountability and Public Participation for Africa (CAPPA)

6. Nigerians Against GMOs

7. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN)

8. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre

9. Nigeria Women Farmers Association (NIWAAFA)

10. We the People

11. HipCity Innovation Centre

12. Association of Women Farmers of Nigeria

13. Women and Youth in Agriculture

14. Udama Co-operative Farm

15. Green Alliance Nigeria

16. Women& Children Life Advancement Initiative

17) The Young Environmentalist Network (TYEN)

18. Peace Point Action

17. Social Action

19. Committee on Vital Environmental Resources (COVER)

20. Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI)

21. Eco Defenders Network

22. Urban-Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED)

23. Host Communities Network

24. Youth and Small Holder Farmers(YOSHOFA)

25. Women Environment Programme (WEP)

26. Lekeh Development Foundation (LEDEF)

27. Nigeria Coal Network (NCN)

28. Global Prolife Alliance

29. Neighborhood Environment Watch Foundation

30. Socio Economic Research and Development Centre

31. Community Forest Watch

32. Niger Delta Development Initiative

33. Kallop Humanitarian and Environmental Center

34. Citizens Information and Development Initiative

35. Relief International Africa

36. Social Accountability and Environmental Sustainability Initiative

37. Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

38. Greenleaf Advocacy and Empowerment Center

39. Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth

40. Media Awareness and Justice Initiative

41. WastePlus Environmental Services

42. Visible Charity Global Foundation

43. Ogoni Youths Development Initiative

44. Rivers Indigenous NGOs and Civil Society Network

45. Masses Interest Coalition

46. Rivers Network of NGOs

47. Ofure Centre for Peace and Development

48. Foundation for Conservation of Nigerian Rivers

49. Egbema Voice of Freedom

50. Grass to Amazing Favour Global Foundation

51. Rivers Community Content Initiative

52. Jelu New Breed Foundation

53. Rivers Civil Society Organisations

54. BINEC Herbson Development Foundation

55. Angel Support Foundation (ASF)

56. Community Development Advocacy Foundation (CODAF)

57. Egbema Voice of Freedom

58. BRACED Union, Edo State Chapter

59. Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development(CEHRD)

60. ANPEZ Center for Environment and Development

61. Society for Women and Youth Affairs (SWAYA)

62. Pius Dukor Foundation for Community Development and Advancement

63. Canaan Peace, Women and Community Development Initiative (CAPWOCODI)

64. Kallop Humanitarian and Environmental Center

65. Center for Environment, Media and Development Foundation (CEMEDEC)

66. Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development(FENRAD)

67. Niger Delta Women International Resource, Environment and Development Center (NDWIRED CENTER)

68. Public Enlightenment Projects (PEP)

69. Greenskill Acquisition Centre Ltd

70. Centre for Justice, Empowerment and Development

71. Centre for Rural Emancipation, Economic and Social Development

72. Child and Green Foundation

73. Sunshine Progressive Youth Alliance

74. Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre

75. Rural Health and Women Development

76. League of Queens International Empowerment

77. Alauchi Women Development Initiative

78. Media Awareness and Justice Initiative (MAJI)

79. Rights advocacy & development center (RADEC)

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