By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
Groups on the platform of the HOMEF have called for the repeal of the Repeal of the National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015. They also called for the revocation of Monsanto’s GMO permits as well as the protection of the nation’s food and environment.
The call was contained in a statement jointly signed by HOMEF Director Nnimmo Bassey Convener of Nigerians against GMOs, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour Food Sovereignty Programme, Friends of the Earth Nigeria/Africa Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje and the African Health Magazine Dr. Ifeyinwa Aniebo.
According to the group “Besides the lack of elegance in the drafting of the law, some provisions do not make sense at all and in some places, references are made to incorrect sections or to nonexistent sections.
“In our objections to the applications by Monsanto and NABDA, we raised serious concerns that would have led to the rejection of the unwarranted applications if they had been considered. We raised concerns related to health, environmental, socio-economic, technical, administrative, molecular concerns, safety assessments and environment risk assessment.
“We also pointed out that the applicants did not show how they would deal with secondary pests, exposure pathways and pest resistance. Safety and environmental risks and issues of liability and redress were also not adequately addressed by the applicants” the group said.
The statement added that “we believe the Act requires to be repealed or at a minimum have a thorough reworking, particularly with regard to Access to information, Public consultation and participation, Liability and redress, Labelling and the right to know and Decision-making among others
Recalling, that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act, 2015, was signed into law in the dying days of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan., the group “In spite of the far-reaching importance of biosafety matters to citizens of Nigeria, the process that led to the passage of the Biosafety Bill and its eventual signing into law was trailed by unresolved controversies and complaints from key stakeholders including farmers, consumers and civil society groups”
“Conflict of interest is inbuilt in the NBMA Act and raises acute red flags about the administration of biosafety in Nigeria. For example, two of the permits issued by NBMA to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited (the confined field trial of two maize varieties) were applied for by the company in partnership with one of the members of the NBMA board, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA).
“With a GMO promoter applying for a permit in partnership with a biotech company, and sitting to approve the same permit, there are obvious reasons to call the entire transaction to question.” They added that the NBMA Act gives the agency enormous amounts of discretionary powers with not enough mandatory duties in the operational provisions to ensure that the agency performs a stewardship role to ensure that GMOs do not pose harm to human and animal health, society and the environment.
“We are also concerned that NBMA approved and issued Permit for Commercial release/Placing on Market of Cotton (MON15985) genetically modified for lepidopteran insect pest on Sunday 1st May 2015 when government offices do not open. In fact, 2nd May 2015 was also a public holiday.
“In addition, it is regrettable that NBMA approved Monsanto’s proposal for Bio cotton in May 2015 despite the fact that Burkina-Faso’s cabinet on April 14, 2016 announced its discontinuation with genetically modified cotton due to the poor quality of the cotton. It is worthy of note that cotton production has improved in Burkina Faso in both quality and quantity since they reverted to non-GMOs varieties” it said.