Agric experts warn against gradual phase-out of indigenous seeds for GMOs

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Experts in the agricultural food chain have decried the gradual infiltration of Genetically Modified Organisms into the Nigerian market, with fears that the trend may phase out indigenous crops which are environmentally friendly.

They also warned that cultivating GMO crops will eventually affect local plants, crops and animal species if allowed to coexist with them and negatively impact the country’s biodiversity.

The experts disclosed their observations at a media interaction on Agroecology as a Viable Solution to Climate and Food Crisis, in Nigeria.

While worrying that the country appears to be a dumping ground for junk technologies, the experts warned that other nations, including the United States and Kenyan governments, already rejected the introduction of genetically modified TELA Maize variety, currently being accepted in Nigeria.

Mrs. Oyetoun Alonge, an Agricultural Technologist at the Teaching and Research Farm, University of Ibadan, while presenting a paper at the interaction, criticised the approval for cultivation of GM TELA maize in Nigeria and warned that the move may be grave with dire consequences in future.

“I am not happy about the development. I am sure that a majority of the people who know the negative effects of these GMO products on us as humans and even on our nation will not be happy. The major consequence is that GMO produce will phase out all the indigenous seeds before we know it. It’s going to affect our local products – species of plants and animals.

“We will have to go back to where the seeds originate every time and before you know it, farmers will start embracing the GMO products and our normal maize seeds will lose viability and when they lose viability we may not be able to go back to it because they might not germinate again. And when we are no more using it that means we have lost it forever.”

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She also warned that farmers would be at the receiving end of the bargain as they may be forced to grow GM seeds if local species become unproductive.

“Introducing GMO to Nigerians has serious consequences. Farmers may be subjected to the originator of these seeds to buy them, it is a serious war that we have to consider and I know a lot of people who know the implications of this will support my take.

“There are lots of things that GMOs can cause; it has negative effects on our health. There are researches that have shown that GMOs can cause cancer, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance. It can cause immunity problems. Some researches even show that it causes infertility and some simply put it that GMO is toxic.

“I read a study, which said GMO can cause new diseases, new pests, new weeds and things that we are not used to will just be occurring on farms, even in humans. We are still fighting COVID-19; I pray we’ll not be fighting other things if we expose ourselves to this GMO of a thing. Then, it overruns existing species, it phases out biodiversity.

“Organic agriculture is the way to follow now; people should learn that anything that affects our environment will affect us either directly or indirectly. If we use things that are causing problems to our environment, we are causing problems to ourselves,” she said.

Alonge’s position was also corroborated by the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, who noted that the Nigerian indigenous maize crop is the only drought-tolerant species, which has grown and familiarised with the environment.

Bassey chided the NBMA and the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) for promoting the development of food crop that has been rejected by other countries.

“A few people should not be dictating to us what we grow or eat. Farmers should be able to decide for themselves. There are strong forces at the corridors of power that just want to destroy our food system, erode our biodiversity and hand over our agricultural system to the colonialist. It is a political agenda. To start with, that Nigeria population is 200 million is fictional, it is not true. The government needs to know the actual population of the country.

“The politics of GMO is about who controls the market, it is not about feeding the people, Africa is not as populated as it has been peddled by the developed nations, the truth is that our farmers can feed us and they have been feeding us, what they need is basic extension support from the government,” he said.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms such as plants, animals or microorganisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and or natural recombination.

Recall that on October 8, 2021, the federal government through the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), granted environmental approval to the Institute for Agricultural Research for the general and commercial release of TELA Maize, a genetically modified grain that allegedly can withstand drought and resist the Stem Borer and Fall Armyworm.

The federal government has since come under severe criticism over this move which experts claim is inimical to the nations Agricultural sector.

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