Nnimmo Bassy, ED HOMEF


Civil society groups, researchers as well as analysts representing millions of Nigerians, are in unison urging the National Biosafety  Management Agency to revoke the permits recently granted, for the commercial release of the TELA Maize.

The Coalition is citing failures of the maize Variety which had been genetically modified, insect resistance and unwanted venture being pushed to the country for commercial gains as their reasons for the disapproval.

In a statement by the group, the Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF,  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.

According to him, genetically engineered  TELA  maize has failed to be as productive as conventionally bred drought tolerant varieties of 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,”Bassey noted.

He lamented that, the giant of Africa has become the giant hole for dumping failed technologies, while faulting permitting regulatory agency for the challenge.

The HOMEF director noted that, 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, adding; “routine claims by Nigerian agencies that there are no risks with GM crops are fatuous.”

Bassey further stated that, genetic modification is a false solution to drought and other environmental stressors.

He explained, “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”.

On her part, Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, food sovereignty programme coordinator at Friends of the Earth Nigeria/Environmental Rights Action, said it’s unacceptable to grow TELA  maize with events MON 87460 and 89034 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.

For 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 that:  “The NBMA  has disregarded the socioeconomic impacts that may arise as a result of introducing this MON87640 variety to smallholder farmers.

Socioeconomic studies conducted on the impacts of GM maize in the Eastern Cape of South Africa demonstrate huge economic risks for smallholder farmers.

Studies, have however, showed 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 sub optimal 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.” he said.

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, he claimed, can be supported and up-scaled by the government.

The group is demanding for an urgent reversal of the permits for the commercial release of the TELA Maize, just as they are clamoring 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.

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