By Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour
Let’s start from the end.
The Bio-safety Bill is a ruse, a scam, a charade, a veil under which Monsanto and similar foreign Bio-tech companies can achieve a strong foothold in Nigeria, while legitimizing illegal experiments (BtCowpea) that has already started happening in Nigeria. There will be no improved research or innovative cutting edge solutions to our problems. NO… There would only be another dependent market for Monsanto, Sygenta and Dupont to sell their Modified seeds. This story will end exactly the same way the Ajaokuta Steel scam ended.
This will happen because the backers of this bill are not looking out for Nigeria’s Interest. NABDA has been a long term partner with MONSANTO. Our Agriculture minister has been a senior level partner at Rockefeller (Which is a huge proponent of GMO technology). Lastly the business model of these companies is to create dependency, which translates to more money for them.
“The Bio-safety Act is a safety valve for harnessing the potentials of modern technology in that, it will proscribe procedure for the application of the technology, risk assessment before the adoption and use of any genetically modified organisms and penalties for contravening the Bio-safety Act.”The Director General of NABDA, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu
That excerpt seems like a good idea until you read the following:
“I can speak authoritatively that Mr. President will be anxious to enact a Bio-safety law, when he gets the passed bill before him, for the interest of the country, he will sign, So that Monsanto and other countries can come to Nigeria to assist us in boosting agricultural production not only in food but also in area of cotton, cowpea, maize, tomatoes.” Chairman of the Senate committee on Science and technology Prof. Robert Boroffice
This is similar to saying we will set up INEC to conduct free and fair elections so that Abacha will be president. I hope that analogy shows how ridiculous this sham is. How does a company pre-qualify even before you set up the infrastructure to test whether or not the company’s products are both safe and are of long term benefit to Nigeria and Nigerians?
Naiveté has been the curse of African people and it is still our greatest weakness.
On the 6th of July, The Minister of Agriculture Dr Adesina made the following comments on GMO’s:
“The fact remains that we have nothing in this country called GMO. “
Without mincing words, that is an outright LIE, and the Nigerian populace deserves to know the truth. The Minister and his ministry should start by explaining the existence of Bt Cowpea in Nigeria. A full case study has been published by Obidimma C Ezezik* and Abdallah S Daar titled ”Overcoming barriers to trust in agricultural biotechnology projects: a case study of Bt cowpea in Nigeria.”
What is remarkable is the extent of the lie when even the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has published several documents and an FAQ sheet on Bt Cowpea. One such question is this:
Q: Why has field testing of the Maruca-resistant cowpea been started in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ghana, and not in other countries?
A: The field testing of Maruca-resistant cowpea was started in those countries that have working bio-safety regulatory systems.
The GMO Bt Cowpea core partners include, The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) , The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Zaria , The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and last but certainly not least, The Monsanto Company .
The same Minister on national TV(channels TV) further talks about how Monsanto BT cotton is being introduced in the northern part of Nigeria, a plant which of his own explanation is GMO. So why all the lies? That is a rhetoric question. Lies have been the trade currency of Monsanto and other Bio-tech firms for a long time but as with all lies, the truth eventually comes out. Thankfully to the good people at NABDA, who despite contradicting the Minister of Agriculture have at least been honest with Nigerians about the existence of Bt Cowpea (A GMO cow pea made by inserting MONSANTO BT gene in to the cow pea DNA. Nothing conventional about transgenic modification)
On the 10th of July, The Director General of agency, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu, made an appeal on the need for a Bio-safety law for the adoption of biotechnology in Nigeria. She maintained that “some saboteurs had been feeding false information to the public to frustrate the efforts being put in place to introduce genetically Modified Foods in the country, adding that this is a deliberate effort by those that want Africa to remain backward to keep using misguided anti-technology views to justify their antics.”
It would seem that both the NABDA boss and Minister Adesina, believe that by covering their ears and repeating anti-science enough times, the grim reality of what MONSANTO is would go away. Neither of them have addressed why six countries out of the G8 banned GMO and placed restrictive policies in place against it. They ignore the damage these plants and agricultural practices have on the soil, the dependency it creates on foreign companies to plant food and the negative health consequences scientist all over the world have shown GMO’s have. This comes as no surprise. NABDA has had MONSANTO as a core partner for a long time now, so unfortunately NABDA has become nothing more than a mouth piece for Monsanto. The good folks at NABDA would have us believe they are the only authority entitled to speak on genetics and Bio-tech. It is unfortunate that being a scientist is not also the sole pre-requisite to eating GMO. Since the NABDA population is less than 0.000001 percent of Nigeria, I believe it is only right that we Nigerians that have not been tainted with “Monsanto money / funding” apply our common sense to the matter as it would be us, the driver, the plumber, the editor, architect, lawyer and our children that would be eating this Monsanto Poison.
There is hope. Yes there is … there is hope in the senate… well we hope so.
On the 10th of July, A Bill to regulate the practice of modern biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) scaled second reading in the Senate on Wednesday. Senator Domingo Obende (Edo North) who sponsored the bill in his lead debate said The Bill according to him also seeks to address the National Bio-safety requirements and to ensure safety to the environment and human health. Unfortunately this does not fill me with confidence. The debate in the senate did not address the plethora of negative issues linked to GMO’s which have triggered a Worldwide back lash.
So below are some talking points for the Good people in the Nigerian Senate.
Does Nigeria have a tenth of the regulatory or scientific infrastructure of France, Germany, Japan, Russia, England or Italy? Yet all these countries have implemented bans against GMO’s. Won’t it be wishful thinking to imagine these things will be regulated by bodies already contaminated by Monsanto? Who are we fooling?
Are these 6 countries previously mentioned anti-science? Or do they want to be poor (in relation to them banning GMO’s)?
Have we looked at the Bio-safety bill of Germany, Japan, France or Russia to see how well the bill being debated measures up?
The soil is a living thing (Made up of bacteria and nutrients) GMO technology kills the soil, their seeds are not renewable, this means that every year farmers will have to go back to buy seeds. The pollen from these plants contaminates natural plant population. All these factors make us more dependent on these companies to grow food because our natural varieties would cease to grow properly on our dead soil.
The question is once this dependency is established, WHAT HAPPENS IF THE NAIRA FALLS TO THE DOLLAR? As we would have become dependent on a now commoditized primary input of agricultural production.
American farmers have been complaining about the negative implications of growing GMO such as, Resistant weeds, contamination as a result of pollen drift and cross pollination, higher use of expensive Monsanto roundup herbicides, high cost of seed and the unavailability of pure seeds in the seed market. Furthermore Universities and seed companies have ceased research on developing new and improved conventional herbicides mainly because funding is pushed towards GM herbicides. This has locked American farmers in to the use of this monopolistic and environmentally destructive cycle.
PRO-GMO imperial agents speak about the fact that we import a lot of food. Granted, we do, but why is that? We import because so far our government has not successfully mechanized our farming. Fifty percent of goods produced on the farm rot before they get to the market (no storage and logistic frameworks) and our farmers do not have access to subsidies and loans which their European and American counterparts have. So as a solution they propose the payment of royalties to these foreign companies for seeds. Would that not equate to an outflow of capital?
Currently, Five million Brazilian farmers are locked in a lawsuit with US-based biotech giant Monsanto, suing for as much as 6.2 billion Euros. They say that the genetic-engineering company has been collecting royalties on crops it unfairly claims as its own. In the latest instalment of the legal battle erupting in South America, the Brazilian court has ruled in favour of the Brazilian farmers, saying Monsanto owes them at least US$2 billion paid since 2004. Monsanto, however, has appealed the decision and the case is ongoing.
Other concerns I hope are raised in the senate or by the powers that be include:
– Contamination of natural species by GMO’s, thus taking away choice from the people.
– The relatively much lower nutritional value of GMO’s relative to Natural occurring varieties.
– Super weeds and resistant pest that are created by this technology as seen in India’s cotton belt with the cotton bollworm. Creating a situation that is akin to jumping from frying pan to the fire.
– Health hazards of consuming these foods and all the declassified information from the American FDA of their own scientist warning against the consumption of these foods. These include sterility, cancer and retarded brain development in kids (due to contamination of breast milk) endocrine disruption (this affects sexual ability), stomach lesions and so many more.
– There’s history of cover ups and lies these companies have been engaged in as well as the corruption of science by multinationals. These include DDT which is now banned, PCBS which is now banned, Bovine growth Hormone now banned in Canada and Europe, claiming that their round up chemical was Bio-degradable, a claim they have been forced to retract. Claims of increased yield, this claim has been shown to be false all over the world. In South Africa, Monsanto has been banned from making these claims in their adverts. Corruption of science is nothing new. In the United States, slave merchants and owners of slaves engaged scientist to assuage moral opposition to the Atlantic slave trade. Scientist such as Alexander Thomas and Samuell Sillen described black men as uniquely fitted for bondage, because of their “primitive psychological organization. Adding that they were little higher than animals (this might explain why Monsanto and their agents still think we are monkeys). They did this ignoring the greatness of the Benin Empire; I wonder if Senator Domingo Obende would agree with that conclusion.
– Proponents argue that GMO would boost exports. It is clear they have not fully looked at the MAP. GMO’s are not allowed in to most countries. Our exports will close up to the whole of Europe. A case study is Japan which as soon as it found out its trading partner Thailand was growing GMO, then banned the importation of Thailand papayas. Thailand’s GMO woes were further brought to light when Thai canned tuna packed in soybean oil was recently rejected by the Netherlands and Greece after they allegedly found it contained genetically modified ingredients. GMO’s have turned into a major concern in several key markets of Thai agricultural products, including the European Union and Japan. Thailand has no policy of allowing trading in modified food. GMO plants are banned from import, except for study and research, and they never produce and export such food. To tackle this problem, Thai authorities are set to announce GMO free zones. These are agricultural areas where the whole process of agricultural production from seed to harvest will be controlled. This zone will be expanded until the entire nation is declared GMO -free
– Since few other nations will accept our new GM export, Nigeria will be locked in to exporting our “potential new yield” to America and Canada. Yet America’s main interest will be bio-fuel. So all this really will have very little to do with feeding Nigeria. This is not new. It has been seen In countries known to be agriculturally self-sufficient, such as Zimbabwe, where the population was subjected to consuming tree bark during a food crisis in 1992, while their fertile lands were used for cultivating tobacco exports, the local market was flooded with subsidized foreign grain and meat products; creating a deliberate express route to creating poverty and unravelling local economies. This has been the African story. We produce products we don’t use and import products we actually need as seen with the way we manage our crude Oil production. This technology is literally being forced down people’s throats and as all negative things that are forced such as slavery, apartheid and colonialism, IT WILL EVENTUALLY CRUMBLE. At that point what happens? All our natural varieties would have been lost. Currently several countries such as Uganda are benefitting from the global high demand of ORGANIC products. Globally,people have seen the value of these foods and are willing to pay much more for it. Organic products can go in to all markets, GMO products can only go in to specific markets.
– Monsanto and Dow chemical have strong ties to the US MILITARY. During World War 2, they were an extension of the US military and were the creators of Agent Orange a defoliant formulation used by the US military to deprive insurgents of cover and targeting food crops as part of a starvation campaign, destroying an estimated 10 million hectares of agricultural land. As many as 3 million civilian Vietnamese people have been affected by Agent Orange, including at least 150,000 children born with birth defects. According to Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects. Women had higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirths, as did livestock.
Dead Vietnamese babies, deformed and stillborn as a result of prenatal dioxin exposure from Agent Orange
Effect of agent orange on Vietnamese children
With that bit of history and our persistence in resisting an American military occupation (Army base) in Nigeria, does it make sense to allow an AFCOM occupation on Nigerian farms? Monsanto and Dow at any point are extensions of the US MILITARY. It is important to note that warfare has evolved from swords to drones to chemical and biological, opening ourselves up to these technologies without a matching ROBUST SCIENTIFIC INDEPENDENT regulatory infrastructure is childish, backward thinking and stupid for lack of a better word.
“Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the Third World, because the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries.”– Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize recipient & former US Secretary of State
What happens if the almighty America decides to use Nigeria and Africa as guinea pigs and test the science of eugenics? An example, A small California biotech company, Epicyte, in 2001 announced the development of genetically engineered corn which contained a spermicide which made the semen of men who ate it sterile. At the time Epicyte had a joint venture agreement to spread its technology with DuPont and Syngenta, Epicyte had developed its spermicidal GMO corn with research funds from the US Department of Agriculture – Ask yourselves since all we keep hearing is how these companies intend on “HELPING” us, why do these companies develop such products? Do we have the capability to test and understand what these people are selling to us , or do we like monkeys just accept whatever they tell us is safe?
If the Nigerian government is truly serious about science, let them invest in it. Provide bio-safety 3 labs equip them with modern technology so that OUR SCIENTISTS can create bio-technology INDEPENDENTLY from any foreign Bio-tech company. In so doing they should look out for the INTEREST OF US the consumers not just the money that would be made. A bio-safety bill for now should be nothing less than an equivalent of what is implemented in Germany Japan and France, in fact double of it, because we lack both the scientific infrastructure and regulatory infrastructure (not just an office of paper pushers) but a scientific regulatory agency that does independent research for the Nigerian government. Until that has been built and existed for several years, proved incorruptible, Nigeria has no business with GMO’s.
According to Mahatma Gandhi two of the Seven Deadly Sins include, Science without humanity and Commerce without morality. It is my hope that Nigeria applies wisdom.
It is not because you are hungry that you should sell your teeth. “The man that feeds you controls you”- Thomas sankara.