Samuel Bello, Abuja

The National Biosafety Management Agency and protesters against Genetically Modified Organisms have locked horns over release of the crops into Nigerian market.

Over 20 civil society organisations had, on Monday, staged a protest in Abuja against the crops.

They accused government of trying to destabilise agricultural systems in Nigeria by allowing some companies, especially Monsanto to penetrate into the country.

The protesters were armed with placards showing different inscriptions such as: ‘Preserve nature eject GMOs’, ‘Biotech Industry hands off our food’, ‘Food not poison’, ‘Review NBMA law now’, ‘Silence is betrayal say no to GMOs’ among others.

The rally, which was organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in collaboration with the GMO-Free Nigeria Alliance, Women Environmental Programme, Bio-Integrity and Natural Food Awareness Initiative, U-Red, CISLAC, CLIMATTERS and others, cautioned NBMA to stop ‘illegal’ approval of the companies dealing with GMOs and all scientifically modified foods entering the country.

Speaking to journalists, Director of HOMEF, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey had argued that all foods scientifically modified are injurious to health of Nigerians, saying Nigeria is not ripe yet for the kind of food production technology NBMA, OFAB and others are promoting.

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“Gathered here today, are representatives of farmers, consumers, civil society organisations, scientists, youth and women groups in a rally to publicly denounce the unchecked admission into Nigeria of genetically modified (GM) crops and products.

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“These pose real threats to our food system, biosafety and overall wellbeing. We are rallying to increase public awareness of the implications of agricultural biotechnology and to call for a ban on genetically modified crops and food products in Nigeria. Nigerians demand safe foods, protected biodiversity for the benefit of our farmers and consumers,” Mr Bassey had said.

In a swift reaction by Director-General of the Agency, Mr Rufus Ebegba, during a public presentation on Commercialisation of Genetically Modified Pod Borer resistant (PBR) Cowpea in Nigeria, yesterday in Abuja, noted that critics of GMOs and Biosafety Agency are “ignorant”.

Ebegba explained that “the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) as the competent National Authority on Biosafety in Nigeria, has since inception been faced with various criticisms by some environmental activists.

“Some of these activists have released publications and held fora aimed at discrediting the agency. They have continually fed Nigerians with contradictory and false information about the agency ignorantly.”