GENET archive


9-Misc: Rumpus over GMOs in Nigeria

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Rumpus Over GMOs
SOURCE: Vanguard, Nigeria, by Okey Ndiribe
DATE:   20 Apr 2005

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Rumpus Over GMOs

Participants at a recent two-day conference on genetically modified
organisms concluded that their safety is not yet guaranteed across the

THERE are fears that genetically modified food crops which have been widely
rejected internationally may have been quietly introduced into the country.
This fear was expressed by the Executive Director of Environmental Rights
Action (ERA), Mr. Nninmo Bassey, while speaking at a recent international
conference on genetically modified organisms held in Lagos.

Nninmo explained that the fear is based on the fact that Nigeria has been
receiving food aid from the United States of America whose government has
been in the forefront of the campaign to promote consumption of GMOs in the
Third World. An official from the Federal Ministry of Environment who
attended the conference confirmed that the ministry was approached by the
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for guidelines on what type of
food aid should be received from foreign countries; but that was the end of
the matter. The official could not say whether anybody from the ministry
knew exactly what type of food aid the Federal Government eventually
received from the United States under the 'food for progress arrangement'.

Nevertheless, the fear expressed by Nninmo was shared by other Nigerian
participants at the conference. This apprehension is based on the attitude
of the government of the United States towards third world countries that
need assistance to tackle food shortages.

For instance, it is widely known that since the United States Senate passed
a law in 2003 which stipulated that third world countries which want
American assistance in the fight against HIV/AIDS must also be ready to
accept genetically modified food aid, the US government has attempted to
pressurise some Third World countries facing food shortages to accept this
condition. The Act which is known as the United States Leadership Against
HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act expressly urges African leaders to
accept genetically modified food aid, which implies it is a condition for
the release of assistance funds to combat the listed diseases.

One such country is Zambia. According to a Zambian participant at the
conference, Mrs. Bernadette Lubozhya, the American government had offered
food aid to her country in 2002 when some regions in Zambia suffered food

Said she: "The American government had sent 50,000 tonnes of GMO maize as
food aid through the World Food programme ( WFP)." Zambians actually
suspected that there was an initial conspiracy between their government
officials and those of WFP.

According to Lubozhya: "Immediately the Zambian government announced that
there was a food shortage in some regions in the country, WFP donated the
GMO food to the Zambian government". She added that the food donation was
eventually rejected based on the advice given to the government by
non-governmental organisations. This did not go down well with both the
Americans and WFP. It was therefore not surprising to people of the
Southern African country when WFP stopped them from benefitting from a
European Union donation extended to the country during the period of food
shortage. The EU had routed the donation through the WFP which then
rejected suggestions that the donation be used to purchase food crops from
regions of Zambia where there were food surpluses for distribution to areas
that experienced famine.

The development sparked off an international campaign against Zambia which
portrayed the country's government as heartless for rejecting the GMO food
donation, while the people were dying of starvation.

The American government's fury over the rejection of the GMO maize
smouldered for long. Well over a year after the controversy died down, the
United States Health Secretary Tommy Thompson visited Zambia where he
criticised in very strong terms the rejection of the GMO food aid and
linked future American assistance to Zambia in its fight against HIV/AIDS,
to accepting GMO food aid.

However, some observers of America's posture during the Zambian controversy
pointed out that the US government's position was hypocritical since it has
not yet permitted human consumption of GMOs within the United States. This
position was buttressed by Lubozhya who stated that "only one third of the
maize consumed in the US was GMO maize." She further stated that even this
relatively small quantity of the food crop was only utilised as feed stock.

Lubozhya's position was supported by several other participants at the
conference. According to Mr. Juan Lopez, a participant who represented the
Italian Chapter of Friends of the Earth at the conference, "Starlink (which
is a GMO maize) was introduced in the United States as animal feed". Lopez
further said that somewhere along the line, starlink was found to have
entered the human food chain by mistake and was detected in some food
products displayed in supermarkets.

He continued: "As soon as it was discovered that starlink had entered the
human food chain, the relevant American authorities began to withdraw the
affected products from the shelves of various supermarkets where they were
found. And this process lasted for two years."

Lopez told other participants that many advanced countries of the world
including the European Union, Japan and Korea had already rejected GMOs
adding that Bolivia and Guatemala rejected GMOs earlier this year.

Countries that have rejected GMOs have taken the decision based on several
reasons. Among the factors that have been cited include its yet
unpredictable environmental effects that could turn hazardous. The negative
environmental effects which resulted with the introduction of GMOs in Asia
were mentioned by Asian participants at the confab. These included increase
in soil salinity, water logging, loss of green manure and increase in the
number of pests. According to Neth Dano, a Filipino participant at the
conference, about 500 pests emerged in her country after 'green revolution'
rice heavily supported with chemicals -much like GMOs- was introduced in
that country. Dano further said that the impact of the new rice which was
supposed to increase yield of the crop was devastating to farmers
economically adding that the green revolution rice did not reduce poverty
as envisaged by the government which introduced it but rather increased

"Many farmers who got involved in planting the 'green revolution' rice had
to sell their land to pay their debts", she said.

The story of Bt. cotton, a GMO cash crop in Asia is not rosy either.
According to Lim Li Lin who represented Friends of the Earth of Indonesia
at the conference, "Bt. cotton (a GMO crop) farmers also suffered losses
when they planted the crop on their farms". This was contrary to the
success stories they were told before the crop was introduced to them. She
said the situation was even worse in India.

She continued: "In India over 200 farmers committed suicide in the Uttar
Pradesh region due to losses sustained on their farms after they planted
Bt. cotton".

Citing studies that were carried out to assess the performance of the crop
in India, Lin said only 29 percent of Bt. cotton farmers reported that they
realised profit while 82 percent of non bt. cotton farmers realised profits
within the same year. She further pointed out that all the claims of the
company that introduced Bt. cotton to the Indian farmers were debunked
within the very first year of the farmers' experimentation with the crop.
Among the claims were that Bt. cotton would require less use of pesticides
and reduce cultivation cost.

In Indonesia, Monsanto, the leading American firm involved in the global
production of genetically modified crops, also told farmers in that country
rosy tales about their future in agriculture if they introduced GMO crops
into their farms. But the farmers responded too slowly for Monsanto's
liking. So the company decided to bribe top officials of that country's
government to convince the farmers to plant GMO seeds on their farms. All
went well with the shady deal until sometime last year when the bubble
burst. The United States Government fined Monsanto after it found out that
the company had bribed 140 Indonesian Government officials with 700,000
dollars to work for acceptance of the crop in that country. Monsanto
quietly agreed to pay the fine.

It is widely believed that Monsanto has resorted to bribing government
officials in several parts of the world where GMO crops have been welcome
by the authorities.

Recounting her experience about the attitude of the Filipino government
towards GMOs, Dano said that early this year the Bureau for Plant Industry
in that country approved the planting of Bt. corn without even making
effort to encourage an independent assessment of the possible impact of the
crop on that country's environment. She further said that farmers who were
knowledgeable about GMO crops in the Phillipines had refused to speak out
for fear of victimisation.

According to her: "A court case that was filed in that country's Supreme
Court against the introduction of GMOs was struck out on technical
grounds." But this did not stop the ordinary people from uprooting GMO corn
in the few farms where they were planted in the Phillipines. However, the
Bt. corn farmers in that country now resorted to putting in place tight
security including high barbed wire walls and armed patrols around their

However, Dr. Alex Akpa of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (
NABDA) disagreed with the views of most participants at the conference. He
maintained GMO crops were very safe for human consumption. But Professors
Godwin Ogbadu and Johnson Ekpere disagreed with him and noted that Nigeria
should not yet accept GMOs into the country until sometime in future when
their safety would have been guaranteed by the global science and
technology community.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  New Consumer Rights Law in the Offing
SOURCE: This Day, Nigeria
DATE:   21 Apr 2005

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New Consumer Rights Law in the Offing

A new law that would give legal backing to consumers' right's protection in
Nigeria is in the offing. This indication was given in Lagos recently by
Consumers International (CI) Regional Director for Africa, Alhaji Amadou
Kanoute, while on a visit to the Isolo office of All- Nigerian Consumer
Movements' Union (ANCOMU).

Kanoute was on a week-long visit to Nigeria in celebration of the 2005 World
Consumer Rights' Day held March 15, 2005.The Regional Director said that the
decision was reached following a meeting he held with the Senate Committee
on Commerce at the National Assembly chambers in Abuja recently. With this
assurance, he was optimistic that Nigeria would by 2010, be a force to
reckon with in consumer protection in Africa.

According to him, there are 45 member Organisations of Consumers'
International in Africa, including 30 non-governmental organizations
(NGOs). Alhaji Kanoute used the occasion of his visit to speak on the
orgnisation global campaign against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
He said that GMO's were harmful to humans hence the demand from government
which endorse their use for basic guarantees of safety, traceability,
labeling and liability. The CI standard, Kanoute disclosed, is that any
product with as much as 0.9% GMO should be appropriately labeled, which he
said Nigeria has agreed to.

Asked what options are there for poor disadvantaged countries to influence
consumer policies, the consumer expert said they could engage the
government in dialogue that can influence policy-making; help consumers to
access basic commodities through co-operative union, provide consumer
information and create the willingness to act on consumer rights

The week-long visit afforded the CI Regional Boss to access the country's
institutional framework on consumer protection through interactive
discussions with the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), National Agency for
Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC and the Standards
Organisation of Nigeria (SON) as well as various consumer organisations
across the country.

He says that the new law, when passed would enable the Consumer Protection
Council conduct it mission more effectively and create more synergy with
Civil Society Organisations involved in consumer activities.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinaeckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

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