Federal agencies as unwitting pawns in re-colonisation (1)

The Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu.

The Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu.

MONDAY April 20, 2015, one week before the handover, former President Goodluck Jonathan signed the National Bio-safety Agency Bill into law.

The Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu described the signing of the bill into law as a milestone in the domestication of modern biotechnology in Nigeria, adding that this would allow the country to join the league of nations advanced in the use of this cutting-edge technology as another window to boost economic development.

“It will create more employment, boost food production that will put a smile on the faces of farmers and alleviate hunger if given good attention by the government.” Unfortunately this is not the case.

The Bio-safety Bill is a ruse, a veil under which Monsanto, Dupont, Sygenta and similar foreign Bio-tech companies can achieve a strong foothold in Nigeria with the sole aim to create a dependent market for their patented genetically modified seeds (GMOs) and pesticides.

There will be no improved research or innovative cutting edge solutions to our problems as she claims; neither would we be joining a league of advanced nations, specifically because six out of the eight countries that make up the G8 have outright bans on these companies and their products. Such countries include France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia and most of the EU.

This story will end exactly the same way the Ajaokuta Steel scam ended, with Nigeria holding the short end of the stick except that in this situation it is the wellbeing and livelihoods of the Nigerian people that will be sacrificed.

Genetic modification is the invasive scientific manipulation of plant or animal genes at a molecular level to give it certain properties. In this context, the plant is modified by Bio-tech companies to withstand unhealthy dosage of pesticides/herbicides produced by the same bio-tech companies. This is achieved by inserting a Bt gene acquired from bacteria into the genome of plants like corn, cowpea, cassava, etc. This then allows the plant to survive the lethal dosage of their pesticides at the detriment of soil health, harmful pollution to the air and the poisoning of the water system.

Aside from false promises of higher yields, less pesticide use, etc, GMOs are nothing more than patented pesticide delivery systems designed to increase the sales of poisonous agrochemicals such as Roundup, Glufosinate, Bt 2,4D, Astrazine and Neonicotinids. Such chemicals are sold under dubious labels of being bio-degradable which have since proved to be false.

These foreign agricultural bio-technology corporations have lobbied long and hard on every continent to ensure that weak assessment models are the norm. The result has been the creation of models for safety assessment that favour easy approval of GMOs without rigorous assessment of health or environmental risks. NABDA is one of such creations, and its major partner is MONSANTO, the very same company it should be regulating.

In response to an interview of the NABDA boss speaking on the bio-safety bill, Nnimmo Bassey had this to say:
“You know how bad things have gone when public officials become Monsanto’s spokespersons. The claim that any biotech company promotes diversity of seeds or seeds sources is simply turning logic and reality upside down. The thrust of the industry is monopoly and profit. NABDA should focus on research and not sell an image as agent of corporate interests. In these days of novel health challenges Nigerians will do well to avoid experimental cow-boy technologies.”

Friday, March 20, 2015, the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the herbicide glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup – and the insecticides malathion and diazinon as “probably carcinogenic.” The next day Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Maithripala Sirisena, enforced a prohibition on the use or sale of glyphosate products after health professions discovered that glyphosate was the main cause for kidney disease in the country. The Swiss did the same shortly after the French, Dutch and Germans placed a ban as well. NAFDAC’s silence on this matter is especially disconcerting, especially after one considers the following:

“The few scientific researches done on the effects of these foods on humans have showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshaped cell structures in the liver, pancreas and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially atrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed organs, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates and higher offspring mortality as well. Repeated use of seeds like Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready soybeans results in vicious new super-weeds that need far greater amounts of stronger herbicides to combat. Their toxic residues remain in crops that humans and animals then eat. Even small amounts of these toxins are endocrine disruptors that can affect human reproduction adversely. Most recently, tests showed the presence of the herbicide glyphosate, widely used with Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant GM soybean and maize varieties, in samples of mothers’ breast milk in the United States.”  Ify Aniebo (BSc, MSc, MRes, MPH) is a molecular geneticist from Oxford University, with a masters degree in public health. She was also recognised by Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan during the centenary celebrations as an inventor and innovator.

Sunday, August 9, 2015, the Scottish government announced that it would formally prohibit the growing of genetically modified crops. Richard Neilson Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment said the following: “The Scottish government was not prepared to “gamble” with the future of the country’s £14 billion food and drink sector, Scotland was known around the world for its “beautiful natural environment” and banning the growing of genetically modified crops would protect and further enhance its “clean, green status.”

Thursday, August 20, 2015, Mexico’s XII District Court overturned a 2013 ruling that prevented biotech companies, including Monsanto and Syngenta, planting genetically modified (GM) maize in Mexico. The ruling follows two years of 93 appeals by the Biotech Industry after the planting of GMO Maize was banned in September 2013 by Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo J. Citing “the risk of imminent harm to the environment” as the basis for his decision, Justice Eduardo’s decision took into consideration a major disadvantage of GMO technology: The contamination of natural varieties due to wind and pollen drift. This phenomenon was first noticed in the corn belt of Mexico prompting a federal judge to order Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture to immediately “suspend all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in the country.”

Another factor that would seem beyond control is corruption. Corruption of science, the political process and news media outlets is nothing new. The tobacco companies were aware of the link between smoking and cancer, decades before succumbing to pressure by independent scientists to tell the truth. In those decades, they employed several corrupt strategies to hide their lies. From lobbying the government, castigating scientists and anyone that offered a different view point to theirs as well as paying writers, scientists and doctors to alleviate the growing public fear. This same method has been adopted by Monsanto, Sygenta and other Bio-tech companies.

• To be continued tomorrow.
• Rhodes-Vivour wrote from Lagos.



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