Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Africa: GMOs no solution to hunger

Farmers market in Nigeria

 Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), Caritas Nigeria, and Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) issued the following joint statement, published in the July-August 2016 issue of NewsNotes.

At the conclusion of the conference on “Just Governance: The Nigerian Bio-Safety Law, GMOs, and Implications for Nigeria and Africa,” we, from diverse faith-based bodies and civil society organizations from Nigeria, Africa, and other parts of the world, affirm that organic foods are healthy, nutritious and a vital aspect of human rights to food and food security.

Informed by robust presentations by specialists and panelists and spontaneous contributions by participants, we strongly object to the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria, convinced that GMOs are not the solution to hunger.

Nigeria’s fertile land guarantees the nation food sovereignty. Hunger is due to bad governance, poor infrastructure for preservation and distribution of food and lack of adequate all-round support to small-holder farmers who constitute over 70 percent of  farmers in Nigeria. We, therefore, strongly recommend to the Nigerian Government to invest more in agriculture.

The Nigerian Bio-Safety Law, in its present form, is a recipe for the destruction of Nigeria’s ecosystem, food cultures, and systems. The process leading to its passage was devoid of critical input and public participation that would have enabled Nigerians to determine and protect their food cultures and systems. It lacks legal safeguards for protecting their rights.

The public hearing at the National Assembly did not meet an acceptable, minimum, global standard and best practices in a democratic society. It was just a formality to create the semblance of a democratic process and skewed in favor of [GMO-producing] transnational corporations. The government should not only introduce appropriate mechanisms but also repeal laws which legalize and adopt GMO seedlings and food products and marginalize Nigerian farmers.

Furthermore, the Nigerian Bio-Safety Law is not in the interest of Nigerian farmers and the wider public because it facilitates the introduction of GMOs on a massive scale and violates the precautionary principle, which forms the basis of the African Union’s revised African Model Law on Biodiversity, to which Nigeria is a signatory.

We adopt the comments of Health of Mother Earth Foundation and Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria on the relevant sections of the Bio-Safety Law and strongly suggest their incorporation into the Nigerian Law to safeguard the rights of Nigerian citizens and protect Nigeria’s ecosystem.

The potential socio-economic, cultural and ethical impacts of GMOs are enormous and diminish the positive impacts of small-holder farmers who are feeding the country; promoting cultural practices, community well-being, traditional crops and varieties; reducing rural unemployment; engendering trade; raising the quality of life of indigenous peoples; and re-affirming food security.

Aware that the UN recognizes socio-economic consideration as a key element in biosafety negotiations and decision-making processes (Protocol on SocioEconomic Considerations; Article 26), we, therefore, appeal to the government to conduct a socio-economic impact assessment of GMOs before taking any measures that could destroy Nigeria's agricultural sector.

The concerns about GMOs are not only about safety for consumers but also about the more damaging systematic appropriation of the rights to seeds by trans-national corporations that deprives farmers of their traditional rights to seeds, in favor of patents held by multinational corporations (South-South Dialogue Conference). There has been intensive and sustained propaganda on the positive contributions made by GMOs on food security; but little attention given to the inherent risks and hazards of industrial mono-cropping and consumption of GMOs, such as, loss of biodiversity, destruction of live-stock, land grabbing, land and environmental degradation, communal conflicts over land and loss of rights. Therefore, there is an urgent need to present the true and full picture to Nigerians.

Industrial agriculture has no real contribution to national food sovereignty of Nigeria. It is part of the Western development and capitalist economic regime bent Africa remaining a cheap resource continent and market for finished products. More fundamentally, the GMO project is anti-creational. It disturbs, contradicts and destroys the ecosystem. God created every plant and vegetable with its seed in it.  

We implore our policy makers to learn from the experience of Burkina Faso and other countries that are rejecting GMOs and their false gospel of agricultural development. We maintain that Nigeria’s food sovereignty lies in investing aggressively in agriculture, empowering small-holder farmers, and practicing agroecology that is sustainable and environment-friendly.

Photo: Farmers market in Nigeria. Photo by in the public domain and available via wikimedia commons.