OrderPaperToday – A bill seeking to regulate, control and limit any threat to public health, or the environment from the commercial handling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria scaled second reading in the Senate.

Titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend Some Provisions of the National Biosafety Management Agency Act, 2015’ was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North).

While leading debate on the general principles of the bill, on Wednesday, Senator Abdullahi noted that “there have been many conflicting views and opinions about the introduction and commercial handling of Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs in Nigeria, and indeed, in many countries around the world. 

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At the centre of the public discourse are the issues of possible environmental and public health threats, from unregulated and unauthorized handling of GMOs, particularly GM foods, food products and crops.

The specific policy intent of the principal Act, for which this Bill seeks to amend, was to regulate, control and limit any threat to public health, or the environment. This is because so far, there has not been any conclusive finding regarding the overall safety of GMOs to human life and the environment.”

READ ALSO: GMO: Reps bicker over imported maize, to probe Olam

The Senate Leader admonishes that caution must be the watchword in the handling of GMOs, as about 64 countries around the world require GM foods to be properly labelled, and not less than 26 countries, including France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Greece, China, India, Mexico, Australia and Bulgaria, have partially or totally banned GMOs.

“Indeed, the 2022 World Population Review, has argued that ‘despite biotech industry promises, no evidence shows any GMOs currently on that market, showing increased yield, enhanced nutrition, drought-resistant or any other consumer-benefit.’ It also made the important point that “the safety of GMOs is generally unknown.”

“In Nigeria, we are yet to have a scientifically balanced full picture of the situation, as provided for in the international precautionary principles, with regard to GMO commercial farming and the consumption of GMO products.

READ ALSO: Minister Advocates Genetically Modified Organisms to Boost Agriculture

Indeed, GM cotton, (Bt Cotton) reportedly rejected in Burkina Faso, was believed to have been approved and allowed into Nigeria along with cowpea, in 2021, while the GM maize, (Tela) was approved in October 2021.

In Africa at the moment, it is only Algeria and Madagascar that have banned GMOs.

One leading entity that promotes GMO foods and farming, as well as their products around the world, is Monsanto, a Multinational Agrochemical and Agricultural Biotechnology American Corporation. 

This company, for example, argues for the safety of its GM maize for new markets, like Nigeria. But the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a subsidiary of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found an evidence of genotoxicity and oxidative traces for glyphosate, a known source of cancer,” he stated.

READ ALSO: Reps Summon Agric Minister over Cancer-causing GMO Products

The lawmaker recalled that in 2010, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine warned of the health implications of the consumption of GMOs, which could lead to immune dysfunction; insulin disorders and damage to the human reproductive system.

“This bill seeks to amend a total of 23 sections and subsections, in the Principal Act, including those that concern with the processes and duration of risk assessment and management. 

Others are public consultation and participation in decision-making; interest-group representation on the agency’s governing board, as well as offences, sanctions and fines, among others,” he noted

“It is commendable that this administration is gradually working to improve our food security, but the country has to be careful that in working with our foreign partners to consolidate these gains, we do not endanger food safety, our environment, or our biodiversity,” he concluded.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill after consideration to the Committee on Environment for further legislative inputs which was given four weeks to report back to the chamber in plenary.

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