GMOs Threaten our Food Security and Food Sovereignty

IMG_0764GMOs Threaten our Food Security

GMOs do not necessarily yield higher than natural crops. They promote monocultures and will promote land grabbing and thus displace and impoverish small scale farmers. GMOs depend on toxic agrochemicals that are not friendly to soils and ecosystems. They are a clear threat to food security.

Some of the comments made by Rose Gidado as reported under the title, Nigeria Not At Crossroads Over Food Security – Agency Chief (published in The Guardian on 8th July 2016) must have been based on questions that were not accurately posed to her. It could also be that her comments were based on faulty notes she took at the conference she referred to. She came to the conference without being invited by the main hosts, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and African Faith and Justice Network (AFJN).

As an Assistant Director at National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and as the coordinator of Open Forum for Biotechnology (OFAB) in Nigeria, she has links to two institutions that have as their mandate the promotion of GMOs and placement of their products in the Nigerian market and on the dining tables of citizens of this country. Some of us have queried the place and role of NABDA on the Governing Board of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) – an agency set up to regulate the activities of GMO promoters in the country. The place of GMO promoters on the board of a regulatory agency raises questions of conflict of interest as already evidenced by their teaming up with Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd to apply for a permit for confined field trials of Monsanto’s GMO maize, to which assent was given in record time of less than two months from the date the application was advertised for comments from the public.

The comment at the conference under reference that modern biotechnology can be compared to a cowboy technology was made by me. This was an allusion to the use of “gene guns” in the process of insertion of the genetic materials that the technologists may have prepared. As with any shooting activity, it does happen that at times the genetic engineers shoot off target. At other times when they hit their desired target they can not really be so sure of what the outcome would be. One top GMO promoter said recently that GMO cotton failed in Burkina Faso because of insertion of the genetic material in a wrong germplasm. This was said on television and confirms that genetic engineering is not as precise as the biotech industry would want us to believe. It is a technology searching for problems and feeding fat on false promises and hype.

It should also be noted that the insertion of genetic materials from fish into GMO tomato is not a fictional tale. A biotech company, DNA Plant Technology of Oakland, California, actually put the fish gene in a tomato. The GMO tomato was discontinued because of the public uproar that followed its creation. See the story at The Monsanto GMO Story: Adding a Fish Gene Into Tomatoes.

The notion that GMOs are part of a safe technology “needed to achieve developmental strides in economic diversification, food security, improved health systems, cleaner energy, job creation, wealth generation and poverty reduction, Nigeria” is contestable. Agricultural modern biotechnology poses peculiar problems to any environment. No wonder the industry survives largely through their political clout and by the open door policy they have with regulators that are at the same time promoters.

The fact that tampering with nature has impacts on religious, social and cultural sensibilities cannot be denied. Neither should it be described as unfortunate. It is the reality. Applied science must be alive to these sensibilities because science must be in the interest of society. And, in any case, we cannot be bullied into silence by the claim that science is neutral.

Science may be right when it says that every living thing can ultimately be broken down to carbon, for instance. Perhaps the basic building blocks of our bodies are similar across species. But some persons may not feel happy to have genes from a pig inserted in rice, for instance.

No matter what NABDA, OFAB and NBMA say, Nigerians have solid reasons to worry about the opening of the doors of our agriculture and food systems to risky technologies.

The fact that science is often not neutral is very much illustrated by goings on in research on genetic engineering, including new areas such as synthetic biology, gene editing and gene drives. Critical scientists continue to be hounded out of jobs or into silence. Those who dance to the tunes of the biotech industry and their political backers flourish on the other hand.

The GMO cotton and maize varieties for which permits have been issued with the active support of NABDA and OFAB pose special risks to our environment. One reason we worry is that the crops are all engineered by Monsanto to withstand their weed killer Roundup of which a key constituent chemical is known as glyphosate. Just like debates raged on whether other toxic chemicals were safe, the debate is on concerning glyphosate. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that glyphosate is probably a carcinogen, based on research carried out by its (WHO’s) research arm and later became more ambivalent. However, the researchers affirm that they stand by their findings.

GMOs do not necessarily yield higher than natural crops. They promote monocultures and will promote land grabbing and thus displace and impoverish small scale farmers. GMOs depend on toxic agrochemicals that are not friendly to soils and ecosystems. They are a clear threat to food security.

No matter what NABDA, OFAB and NBMA say, Nigerians have solid reasons to worry about the opening of the doors of our agriculture and food systems to risky technologies.

 

What the Nigerian National Confab Agreed on Biosafety and GMOs

confab logoDuring the 2014 Nigerian National Conference (Confab), three committees made recommendations with regard to handling of Biosafety in Nigeria and with particular reference to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). As at the time of the Confab the National Biosafety Management Act 2015 (simply known as Biosafety Act 2015) had not yet been enacted. The Confab committees that considered Biosafety matters were the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee, the Environment Committee and the Science, Technology & Development Committee.

The Biosafety Act came into force April 2015 after former President Goodluck Jonathan assented to the Biosafety Bill. Within a year of the Act, two permits have been issued to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd for commercial release of Bt Cotton and for confined filed trails of GMO maize.

Modern biotechnology in agriculture should be restricted to laboratories – and a regime of strict liability and redress should be in place in case of accidents; – Confab Environment Committee

Farmers, consumers, faith based organisations, media, community groups and other civil society groups, including Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) have expressed their rejection of the introduction of GMOs into Nigeria. The reasons for objecting to this development is that these crops would lead to a massive introduction of toxic chemicals into our environment, erode our biodiversity and entrap hapless farmers in the grip of the biotech industry.

We are encouraged that the Federal Ministry of Environment is considering a holistic look at the Biosafety situation in Nigeria, including the Biosafety Act itself. The recommendations of the Confab committees on biosafety matters are weighty and it is germane for us to remind ourselves of what these committees recommended with regard to our biosafety and the matter of GMOs in Nigeria.

Here are the Sections of the Confab report referred to:

A. Agriculture and Water Resources Committee

5.1.7 BIO-TECHNOLOGY (pages 72-73 of the Confab Report)
1. Conference resolved as follows:
a. That adequate funding should be devoted to biotechnological research, especially those that do not
involve cross-species genetic manipulations; and

b. That action should be expedited on the passage of the Biosafety Bill to regulate trans-boundary
movement of genetically modified agricultural products and encourage development of improved
varieties and breeds under ethical research environment.

c. That the Bio-safety Bill should be reviewed to include the following:
i. Public participation: It should be obligatory to ensure public participation when applications to introduce GMOs are being considered;

ii. The Bill should specify clearly how large-scale filed trials would be contained and regulated to avoid contamination of surroundings or farms;

iii. Besides Environmental NGOs, Farmers organizations should be represented on the Governing Board;

iv. Risk Assessment: The Bill should state criteria for risk assessment and such assessments must be carried out in Nigeria and not offshore;

v. Liability and Redress should be included in the Bill bearing in mind that this is a key part to implementing the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol to the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety adopted in October 2010; and

vi. Precautionary principle: The Bill should include the implementation of the precautionary principle that entitles our government to decide against approval or for restriction in cases of incomplete or controversial knowledge.

B. Environment Committee

5.7.3 Policy Resolutions (Pages 151 & 156 of the Confab Report)

1. Resolutions on Institutional Framework and Enforcement
d. There must be policy and action coherence between and within government agencies to ensure
synergy in tackling our environmental challenges;

e. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are not project planning approval documents but
veritable tools for environmental protection. Accordingly EIAs must be conducted for all major projects as stipulated in the EIA Act. Moreover, there should be detailed post project assessment requirements and approved decommissioning plans;

f. The Precautionary Principle of the Cartagena Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) prevails in discussions of modern biotechnology in agriculture and foods. Nigeria must be kept free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a key way to avoid biodiversity erosion and seeds colonization by agri-businesses;

g. Modern biotechnology in agriculture should be restricted to laboratories – and a regime of strict liability and redress should be in place in case of accidents;

8. Biodiversity (Page 156)
h. Identify biodiversity hotspots, like the wetlands and forests which have very high concentrations of native species, and which are rapidly losing habitat and species, as primary targets for conservation.

i. Ensure strict bio safety laws and particularly reject acts that could lead to invasion of alien species
and resulting colonisation and biodiversity erosion;

j. Ensure strict liability and redress in bio-safety matters and bar untested and unregulated
technologies including those related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), geoengineering,
nanotechnology in foods and agriculture and synthetic biology;

C. Science, Technology and Development Committee (pages 352-353 of the Confab Report)

5.19.6 BIODIVERSITY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY, TRANSFER, DIFFUSION, REVERSE ENGINEERING, STANDARDIZATION AND QUALITY ASSURANCE.
1. Biodiversity and Biotechnology
Conference resolved that:
k. A National Biodiversity Conservation Authority be established. State Biodiversity Board and Local Government Biodiversity Task Forces should be created;

l. Government should discourage the use of foreign plants for afforestation, so that indigenous flora ecosystem is protected from extinction and disease;

m. Government should fast-track the passage of the Bill establishing the National Biotechnology Development Agency into Law (NABDA);

d. There is need to fast-track the passage of the bill on BIOSAFETY, with the inclusion of provisions to cover potentially pathogenic and deleterious microorganisms. In doing so, there is a need to ensure the independence of the Biosafety Agency to guarantee its efficacy;

e. Biotechnology and Bio – Safety Bills should be amended to include “strict liability” provisions;

f. Biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of bio resources should be incorporated in the school
curriculum;

g. There should be adequate and consistent funding to NABDA to enable it make the impact it should
nationwide;

h. Deliberate steps should be taken to recruit staff with required expertise, who can add value to the
Agency;

i. Clear incentives, conducive environment and staff welfare, should be maintained to ensure that
staff remain productive and free of concerns which inhibit productive and innovative research and
work;

j. States should be involved in biotechnology development, as well as the private sector to cut cost
and also give the students the needed relevant experience;

k. There should be increased and improved training and retraining facilities and international exposure;

Verified:GMOs Are Officially Approved to Be Grown in Nigeria

PermitGenetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Are Officially Approved to Be Grown in Nigeria

The fact that GMOs are approved to be grown in Nigeria is not in doubt. What is disputed is why the approval was surreptitious, to the extent of being issued on a Sunday. We have issues with the press statement issued on the 20th of June 2016, and credited to the Hon. Minister of Environment Amina J. Mohammed, stating that “What we have approved are for field trials.” She further stated that “All the GMOs in Nigeria officially approved are under experimental fields.” The statement further said that the insect-resistant cotton for commercial release will still be subjected to further processes for the next two years.

We doubt that the National Biosafety management Agency (NBMA) has a different understanding of a permit for commercial release and placement in the environment from what the permit document itself states in plain language.

Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd did not apply for field trials of GMO cotton. They applied for a commercial release and placement in the environment. This means commercial planting of GMO cotton in Nigeria. Section 4 of the permit states and we quote After a thorough analysis of the application dossier, Risk Assessment and Risk Management plan prepared in connection with the assessment of the application for the permit, it is unlikely that the proposed release will cause adverse impact on the environment and on human health. A permit is therefore granted to the Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd as applied for.”

This was signed by the Director General/Chief Executive Officer of NBMA on Sunday 1st May 2016.

The permit does not leave room for further trials. The requirement of the applicant is merely to make reports on their experience in their farms. This is very different from confined field trials as is the case with the permit for GMO maize – which, in any case, we equally object to.

Indeed, the press statement directly contradicts the record on the Biosafety Clearing House’s (BCH) website and on NBMA’s official website. The official response to the concerns of Nigerians and massive rejection of the rushed offer of permits for failed GMOs appears to be calculated to obfuscate the issues and lull Nigerians into thinking that all is well.

Clearly, NBMA as conceived and constructed is incapable of objectively managing biosafety regulation in Nigeria. We cannot repose any confidence in an agency that never mentioned or let it slip that they had opened the doors to an influx of GMOs by issuing permits to Monsanto until we announced to the general public.

In this era of change we cannot cling to wrong-headed policies or unto the wrong foot put forward by the previous government. Having a biotech policy cannot be a justification for opening up the nation’s fragile ecosystems and stressed environment to genetically modified organisms. A biotech policy cannot erase the globally accepted Precautionary Principle on which biosafety regulations hang.

While describing the concerns about GMOs expressed by the public as legitimate, the Minister of Environment stated that the Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), is organizing an experts’ meeting involving civil society groups, national agencies and international organisations to address all concerns expressed, with a view to clarifying Nigeria’s position on the use of GMOs. Our response to this is why did NBMA not take into consideration the robust objections made by 5 million Nigerians to the wishy-washy applications made by Monsanto if the NBMA is ready to hear voices other than those of the biotech industry. NBMA by its letter of 28th April 2016 acknowledge receipt of objection from Health of Mother Earth Foundation and other civil society groups, stated: “your observations have been noted by the Agency… That the National Biosafety Management Agency would review the application holistically and take the best interest of Nigeria, to avoid risks to human health, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The socio- economic impacts would also be well considered before taking the final decision on the application.”

We consider it intriguing and suspicious that a mere one working day after this letter, the DG of NBMA issued permits to Monsanto. This smacks of utter disdain for opinions and positions of concerned citizens who are conscious of the devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts of the failure of these crops, especially GMO cotton in neighbouring Burkina Faso as well as in India, Pakistan and elsewhere.

We are concerned that NBMA and NABDA keep going around hyping myths sold by the biotech industry to an unsuspecting public, while being careful not to reveal to citizens that they had rushed to issue permits a mere two months after they applications were advertised. NBMA obviously relishes in holding the record as the fastest GMO endorser in the world.

The Permit issued by NBMA to Monsanto also states amongst other things that the “The purpose of the dealings is commercial production of the GM cotton in all areas of Nigeria where cotton is cultivated and for products of the GMO to enter general commerce.” If the Agency insists that commercial release is the same things as filed trials, the Minister of Environment would do well to ask NBMA to issue a glossary of Nigerian GMO terminology.

The Minister also alluded that with the “Act in place, Nigeria has taken laudable strides in order to adopt the necessary legal biosafety framework and policy, bearing in mind that if Nigeria gets it right, it will guide other African countries.”    An analysis of the Biosafety Act shows it as an extremely weak and ineffective law that is rigged to subvert the sanctity of the Nigerian environment and to facilitate the colonization of our agricultural and food systems. It reads like a piece of legislation pieced together by the biotech industry.

As we have stated elsewhere, the board of NBMA is populated by groups avowed to the promotion of GMOs. It is a law that requires urgent review and we call on our President as well as the National Assembly to disband the board of NBMA and repeal or radically review the NBMA Act of 2015 for the security of our food systems, protection of our environment from toxic agro-chemicals and for the preservation of our biodiversity.

We cannot claim to be immune to the dangers that GMOs and attendant chemicals such as glyphosate pose to human and environmental health. Nineteen (19) European countries have completely banned genetically modified crops. On Friday the 24th of June 2016, The Russian State Duma passed a bill banning all import and production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country. The bill will affect all crops and animals considered to be genetically modified, except for those used for scientific purposes. Violations of the law carry a fine of 10,000-50,000 ($150-$750) rubles for individuals and 100,000-500,000 rubles for legal entities ($1,500-$7,500).[i] Meanwhile Our Nigerian Biosafety Acts pegs fines for violations at N2, 500,000 (about $7,000) for individuals and N5,000,000 ($14, 000) for companies.

According to the report, “Russian officials insist that country’s farms will be able to produce enough food for the country without the use of yield-increasing GMOs.”  This is not geopolitics; it is biosafety.

In Africa, Rwanda has resolved that it will not lift the ban on GMOs despite a sharp decline in its crop yields. Other countries are resolute in resisting the political arm-twisting associated with the actions of this industry.

Perhaps it is worthy to mention again here that, the BT Cotton application that Monsanto had recycled here in Nigeria was adopted almost verbatim from the Malawian application, Monsanto had sent in 2014 to Malawi. Our sources tell us that the Malawian National Biosafety Regulatory Committee recommended the nullification of the application to the designated Minister of Environment on a number of grounds:  No cost-benefit analysis has been carried out to support Monsanto’s claims that this technology will benefit cotton farmers in Malawi, issues of secondary pests, exposure pathways and pest resistance not addressed, safety and environmental risks had not been adequately addressed by the Monsanto application, issues of liability and redress had been ignored by the application, just to mention a few.[ii] We also objected to Monsanto’s applications in  Nigeria on many grounds.  It is also worthy of note that it took about six months for the Regulatory body in Malawi to come to a decision and recommend to the Minister that Monsanto’s application should be nullified. It took NBMA just a month after 22 days’ window period given to the Nigerian public to submit comments on the applications submitted by Monsanto to issue two Permits to Monsanto to deploy GMOs in Nigeria.

What risk assessments and environmental impact studies did NBMA carry out before issuing these permits?

Surely the Hon. Minister does not expect us to believe that NBMA will do right by Nigerians. How can NBMA really evaluate the efficacy of technologies like GMOs or assure Nigerians of their safety when officials of the agency in all their media appearances do better than GMO salesmen or spokespersons for the biotech industry? How can anyone say there is nothing wrong with a genetically modified crop, Bt Cotton, that just failed in neighbouring Burkina Faso, and the farmers are making claims of $48.3 Billion CFA Francs ($83.91) from Monsanto? Are we having regulators or GMO traders making decisions over our destiny?

Clearly, NBMA as conceived and constructed is incapable of objectively managing biosafety regulation in Nigeria. We cannot repose any confidence in an agency that never mentioned or let it slip that they had opened the doors to an influx of GMOs by issuing permits to Monsanto until we announced to the general public.

We restate our stand that the so-called permits issued to Monsanto to introduce GMOs into Nigeria should be overturned and the Biosafety law itself should be repealed. We also call on the National Assembly to urgently investigate the process leading to the granting of the permit on Sunday, 1st May 2016 to assure Nigerians that we are not pawns and that Nigerians will not be used as guinea pigs in a commercial game to open Africa to toxic technologies.

 

Signed

 

  1. Nnimmo Bassey,

Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)

nnimmo@homef.org

 

 

  1. Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje,

Food Sovereignty Manager/Coordinator ERA/FoEN and FoE International

mariann@eraction.org

 

  1. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour

Convener Nigerians Against GMO

grv@nogmong.com

[i] Russian State Duma Bans Import and Production of GMOs http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russian-state-duma-bans-import-and-production-of-gmos/573403.html. The Moscow Times Jun. 24 2016 17:51

[ii] See Objection and press release on civil society position at www.cisanetmw.org./index.php/events1.

 

Oil Politics – echoes of Ecological Wars

Oil Politics cover

Oil Politics – echoes of Ecological Wars
This is to announce Oil Politics – echoes of Ecological Wars a forthcoming book by Nnimmo Bassey published by Daraja Press.
Set out in seven sections, this book of 54 essays deals with deep ecological changes taking place primarily in Nigeria but with clear linkages to changes elsewhere in the world. These essays provide insights into the background to the horrific ecological manifestations that dot the Nigerian environment and the ecological cancers spreading in the world. They underscore the fact there are no one-issue struggles. Working in a context where analyses of ecological matters is not the norm, decades of consistent environmental activism has placed the writer in good stead to unlock the webs that promote these scandalous realities.

How Safe are Monsanto’s GMOs?

GMOs are basically regulated because their safety is in doubt. The approval granted Monsanto to conduct field trials of genetically modified maize requires that these crops should keep a distance of 20m from non GMO farms. That is absolute nonsense and is designed to ensure that our natural maize varieties are contaminated. It is known that pollen grains travel several kilometres. Contamination has been one key tool used by Monsanto in countries like USA and Canada to chase after non-GMO farmers that actually are the victims of this companies polluting activities.

eco-4_0We have read with interest Monsanto’s defence of NBMA in its response to Premium Time’s report highlighting NBMA’s surreptitious granting of permits to them to bring their GMOs and glyphosate into Nigeria. We restate here that Monsanto’s applications were approved without due diligence and that the law setting up NBMA is extremely flawed in that it gives individuals in the agency the latitude to toy with the health of Nigerians, our environment and food systems. Contrary to Monsanto’s claims, IARC concluded that there was strong evidence of genotoxicity and oxidative stress for glyphosate entirely from publicly available research, including findings of DNA damage in the peripheral blood of exposed humans.

May we be reminded once again that NBMA signed the permits on a Sunday – a public holiday, when government offices were closed and just one month and a few days after the applications were opened to the public for comments. NBMA says it was “convinced that there are no known adverse impacts to the conservation and sustainable use to of biodiversity taking into account risk to human health.” However, it is instructive to note that the BT cotton submitted or rather recycled in Nigeria by Monsanto is a replica of the BT Cotton application that it had submitted in Malawi in 2014. That application  in Malawi was opposed on scientific,  legal and socio-economic grounds. That application has not been approved at the time of this writing. They recycled the application here and we opposed that application on similar grounds.

Monsanto argues that their GMOs and their weed killers are safe. The truth is that the company is good at avoiding liability while exploiting the agencies that ought to regulate them. They claim, “A big part of that confidence comes from knowing that independent experts who’ve looked at GMOs have concluded that they’re as safe as other foods. That includes groups like the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, as well as government agencies like the FDA.”

This is an interesting argument. We quote two statements, one from Monsanto and the other from FDA and leave the public to read between the lines.

Philip Angell, a Monsanto’s director of corporate communications said: “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”

For the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.”

When Monsanto and FDA makes statements like these, the reading is that consumers are left to literally stew in their soups.

In the words of David Schubert, Professor and Head of Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies, La Jolla, California;

“One thing that surprised us is that US regulators rely almost exclusively on information provided by the biotech crop developer, and those data are not published in journals or subjected to peer review… The picture that emerges from our study of US regulation of GM foods is a rubber-stamp ‘approval process’ designed to increase public confidence in, but not ensure the safety of, genetically engineered foods.”

This is exactly what is happening in Nigeria today, unfortunately. We have an agency that disrespects the voices of the people, ignores national interests and blatantly promotes the interests of biotech corporations. The relationship between National Biosafety Agency (NBMA), National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and Monsanto is rife with conflict of interest against the Nigerian people. How is it that the regulated is so influential on the regulator? The evidence in leaked Wikileaks cables  is clear. How can we have NABDA sit on the Board of NBDA, be a co-applicant with Monsanto and then sit to approve the application? This should fit into the definition of corruption in this season of Change.

Monsanto has been desperate to tell the world that their weed killer laced with the ingredient known as glyphosate is safe. The debate about the safety of glyphosate has been interesting with Monsanto in this response to Premium times claiming that “glyphosate poses no unreasonable risks to humans or the environment when used according to label instructions.”

The above claim says two or more things. First that glyphosate poses risks. Secondly that this risk can be tolerated when the chemical is used according to label instructions. Thirdly, when something goes wrong, Monsanto will absolve itself of culpability by claiming that the chemical was not used “according to label instructions.”

The scientific debate over whether glyphosate causes cancer continues, but based on research several countries have banned the use of the chemical. The very fact that there is no consensus on the safety of glyphosate is the reason why Nigeria must apply the precautionary principle. It is interesting that Monsanto accuses IARC of selective interpretation of scientific data. This is a case of a kettle calling a pot black. We doubt if there is any other corporation that engages in selective interpretation of data more than Monsanto.

Despite Monsanto’s claims that glyphosate is safe, French Minister for Health, Marisol Touraine has said that France will ban Glyphosate – whether or not the EU decides this week to renew the authorisation of the chemical. According to her “the studies we have show it’s an endocrine disruptor.”

Earlier this year, a poll by the international market research firm YouGov found that two-thirds of Europeans want the chemical banned. According to the survey of more than 7,000 people across the EU’s five biggest states, the banning of glyphosate was supported by 75% of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French and 56% of Britons.  It is clear so many people around the globe do not want Monsanto’s modified crops or toxic chemicals, so why are they still aggressively pushing and promoting it around the world; dismissing environmental, heath, socio- economic concerns and circumventing government regulations?

Talking about research, a high court in Paris  punished a high ranking official representing Monsanto’s interests for deceitfully covering up research data proving that Monsanto was hiding toxicity of its own corn.

Another report revealed that Monsanto marketed its potent weed killer glyphosate, a key element in their Roundup, and the corn and soybeans genetically engineered to withstand it by claiming that it would replace other, more toxic weed killers such as atrazine on American farmland. It didn’t happen. Recent scientific research suggests that both atrazine and glyphosate are more harmful than scientists once thought. For instance, several studies have shown that frequent exposure to glyphosate doubles a person’s risk of developing a blood cancer known as Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “In light of new evidence on the dangers of glyphosate, European Union nations failed to pass a short-term extension of glyphosate’s license for agricultural use when they voted on this on June 6, 2016. The pesticide could be barred in the EU as soon as next month.”

From the antecedents of Monsanto when it comes to cutting corners when it comes to risk assessments we have   no inclination to give it any benefit doubt.

There was a time when scientists insisted that cigarettes do not cause cancer. Today that has been exposed as a lie. Monsanto claims that their liability over PCB is over an historical misdemeanour. This is another problem with Nigeria’s Biosafety Act. If problems emerge in future over toxic chemicals introduced into the Nigerian environment today, Monsanto will go free because the law does not have provisions for strict liability. Meanwhile we remind ourselves that if toxic PCB is in history, so is Monsanto’s Agent Orange, the defoliant used in the Vietnam war and the toxic template on which the company continues the business of killing biodiversity.

GMOs are basically regulated because their safety is in doubt. The approval granted Monsanto to conduct field trials of genetically modified maize requires that these crops should keep a distance of 20m from non GMO farms. That is absolute nonsense and is designed to ensure that our natural maize varieties are contaminated. It is known that pollen grains travel several kilometres. Contamination has been one key tool used by Monsanto in countries like USA and Canada to chase after non-GMO farmers that actually are the victims of this companies polluting activities.

Our agricultural systems, eating habits and cultural requirements are not the same as those of Americans, for example, and bringing these crops into our country will expose us to unimaginable health impacts.

We would also be closing markets against ourselves. A case in point is a recent refusal of Brazil to buy corn from the USA, due to GMO concerns, even in the face of shortage of corn needed in chicken feed. Note that Brazil is a country already with other varieties of GMOs!

Finally, we ask, are we so stupid that a genetically modified crop, Bt Cotton, that just failed in neighbouring Burkina Faso, (and the farmers are making claims from Monsanto) is what we are glibly opening our country to? Are we having regulators or GMO traders making decisions over our destiny?

Monsanto should note that its We the People of Nigeria, not Corporations and agrochemical Companies like Monsanto that will dictate the food system we want.

We restate our stand that the so-called permit issued to Monsanto to introduce GMOs into Nigeria should be overturned and the Biosafety law itself should be repealed. We also call on the National Assembly to urgently investigate the process leading to the granting of the permit on Sunday, 1st May 2016 to assure Nigerians that we are not pawns in a commercial game to open Africa to toxic technologies.

By Nnimmo Bassey, Mariann Bassey Orovwuje and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour

 

 

Road, Yes; Displacement, NO!

IMG_1332The Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, organized  a  two- day  Community dialogue and an Environmental Impact Assessment EIA training for communities that will be critically impacted by the proposed Digital Superhighway Project proposed by the Cross Rivers State Government.

The  thrust  of  the  meeting  was  to  build  the  capacity  of relevant community stakeholders  to  discuss issues related to their forests as well as the overall impact 10km right of way to be acquired on either side of the proposed Superhighway. The threats to their biodiversity rich forest and its resources, the environment and livelihoods they depend on for daily survival were of great concern.

Participants were drawn from  Okokori and Edondon in Obubra Local Government area; Old Ekuri and New Ekuri from Akamkpa Local government area; non‐governmental organizations,  representatives  of  civil  society  groups and community based organizations and media from within and outside Cross Rivers State.

At the end of a three day interactive community dialogue and EIA training, participants and community stakeholders from Edondon, Okokori, Old and New Ekuri resolved that they:

  1. Need good roads but do not want their cultural heritage destroyed.
  2. Insist on active engagement of communities in the EIA process with adequate compensation paid where necessary.
  3. Write to Government to register their concerns relating to the proposed super highway project.
  4. Call for NGOs and International agencies support to build a stronger alliance against the super highway project especially with regard to threats to forests
  5. Community’s FPIC must be sought in all projects before implementation.
  6. protest and resist any unsustainable forest management practices in the forest rich region.
  7. Reduce every activity that promotes deforestation.
  8. Promote forest conservation and regeneration of indigenous trees in degraded areas.
  9. Minimize poaching, unregulated hunting and stop to illegal wild life trade
  10. Reject use of forest lands for large scale plantations
  11. Campaign against water pollution and the indiscriminate use of chemicals.
  12. Strengthen the Community Forest Watch for effective community forest monitoring
  13. Form a community health monitoring group to ensure sustainable forest management practices.
  14. Help to protect, preserve and conserve their forest which provides them with social, economic, spiritual benefits

RESOLUTIONS ISSUED AT A  TWO DAY COMMUNITY DIALOGUE & ONE DAY EIA TRAINING @OKOKORI & EKURI COMMUNITIES HELD IN CROSS RIVERS STATE, NIGERIA.  9‐11th June, 2016.Signatories

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Representatives of Old Ekuri Community

Representatives of New Ekuri Community

Representatives of Okokori Community

Representatives of Edondon Community

Ekuri Initiative, EI

Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF

Rural Action for Green Environment, RAGE

Green Concern for Development, GREENCODE

Peace Point Action, PPA

Lokiaka Development Centre, LDC

Rainforest Research and Development Centre, RRDC

NGO Coalition on Environment, NGOCE

 

Standing Before History

Standing Before History

In his statement before execution, Ken Saro-Wiwa declared: we all stand before history. Today, in another sense, we all stand at the brink of history. We stand at the line denoting the fact of the justness of the historic, determined and heroic calls for a clean up of Ogoniland and the entire Niger Delta.

The submission of the UNEP report on the assessment of the Ogoni environment in August 2011 laid to rest any doubts anyone may have had over the degree of hydrocarbons pollution in the Ogoniland, and by implication the Niger Delta. That scientific work proved to the whole world that Ogoniland has suffered extreme pollution and by interpretation that the response ought to be one of environmental emergency. For years down the road, there has been nothing concrete beyond signposts to indicate that this signal was understood by government.

Today we salute the memory of the Ogoni 13 and all that have laid down their lives, lost their limbs and were displaced in the hard and long years of struggle for justice. Today we stand in solidarity with our peoples who still breathe air loaded with hydrocarbon fumes, drink water laced with toxic chemicals, fish and farm in polluted lands. Today we recall a fragment from one of the letters Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote during his last imprisonment and note his cry for environmental justice:

I’m not going into partisan politics. What I meant is that I would be taking a wider role in the nation’s affairs—expanding the Ogoni struggle to other parts of the delta and beyond. I could never be a part of whatever Abacha is planning for the future. What I want to see, and what I will always argue for is ERECTISM — ethnic autonomy, resource and environmental control. If this comes to pass, then Ogoni will be free and it is to them that I wish to dedicate the rest of my life. And I hope that that can be an example to other ethnic groups. The translation of my dreams into reality. Nothing to do with partisan politics.[1]

With decades of extreme hydrocarbons pollution, the environment of Ogoniland and several places in the Niger Delta has been out of control. The environment that ought to provide the backdrop for life, safety and progress, indeed turned hostile, becoming an impediment to the enjoyment of the right to life.

Today we applaud the courage of President Muhammadu Buhari as he flags off the cleaning of the environment of Ogoniland as the pathway to the detoxification of the Niger Delta environment. Taking this step at a time such as we are in is a mark of commitment that we must salute.

I believe that civil society and concerned peoples of this great nation, will pledge to work to see that this is not a mere political event, but one that is adequately funded, systematically pursued and implemented with clear targets and milestones, with best available expertise and with the full inclusion of local communities. As we commit to do this, we keep in mind the stanza of our national anthem which declares: the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.

 

[1] See Silence Would Be Treason- Last writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa, (2013) letter written 24/10/1994

For Our Biosafety & Biosecurity*

IMG_0764The saying goes that a people united can never be defeated. Today we affirm that our unity is built on sound knowledge and on a commitment to ensure that our agricultural and food systems are not by any means compromised or corrupted by GMOs.

The conference on Just Governance: The Nigerian Biosafety Law, GMOs and Implications for Nigerians and Africa could not have come at a more critical time. We are at crossroads in the struggle for sustainable agriculture, safe foods, biosafety and biosecurity. Navigating this intersection and assuring Nigerians that their concerns are not pushed out of view by profit-driven biotech transnational corporations and their agents can only be achieved through a broad movement of vigilant Nigerians, and Africans at large.

The coming together of faith based organisations, farmers, consumers, academics, youths and non-governmental organisations to examine the critical issues under the co-coordination of the Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN) and the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) indicates that the movement to pursue the best interest of Nigerians and Africans is on track.

The saying goes that a people united can never be defeated. Today we affirm that our unity is built on sound knowledge and on a commitment to ensure that our agricultural and food systems are not by any means compromised or corrupted by GMOs.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with its Precautionary Principle, sets the minimum international biosafety standards for the trans-boundary movement of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and requires that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, the lack of full scientific knowledge shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective means to prevent environmental degradation. This key principle is lacking in Nigeria’s Biosafety law. With such a lacuna and many others – including lack of provisions for strict liability, labelling of GMO products, open and full public consultations – there is no guarantee for our biosafety and ultimately biosecurity.

The desperate push by the biotech industry to invade our agriculture and foods has come on the heels of coming into effect of the severely defective National Biosafety Management Act. That law was one of the last actions of the immediate past presidency. It is an act that threatens to enthrone a biosafety regime that caters for the interest of biotech industries seeking markets for their genetically modified crops and related chemicals.

  • We demand that current applications by Monsanto to bring in genetically modified varieties of maize and cotton into Nigeria should be set aside until we have a system that can protect the interest of Nigerians and is in line with the African Model Law on biosafety as well as the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Although the law is recently enacted, we cannot avoid quickly repealing it or, at a minimum, drastically revising it to ensure that risky or harmful substances do not have a free reign in our land.

Our agricultural systems, including that of saving and sharing seeds, should never be tampered with. Our biodiversity is our strength and this critical inbuilt resilience will be lost if we allow GMOs to erode or erase our heritage and destroy our soils and water with harmful chemicals.

We call on relevant government ministries to jealously guard our crop and animal varieties, provide rural infrastructure, support agro-allied industries for food processing and preservation and expand extension services that were severely constricted by the requirements of the infamous structural adjustment programmes.

Nigeria is not a dumping ground for risky technologies and we are not about to yield to be used as guinea pigs for experimentation by profit driven entities and their local agents. We stand for support of small holder farmers, food sovereignty encompassing our right to safe and culturally appropriate food. We stand for agricultural systems that do not harm the climate.

-ends-

*Statement by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at the press conference marking close of the Just Governance: The Nigerian Biosafety law, GMOs, and Implications for Nigerians and Africa held at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja from May 23-25, 2016.

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IMG_0785Abuja Declaration on The Release Of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria*

At the conclusion of the conference on Just Governance: The Nigerian Bio-Safety Law, GMOs, and Implications for Nigeria and Africa held at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja, May 23-25, 2016; we, the participants from diverse religious and faith based bodies, communities and civil society organizations (CSOs) from Nigeria, Africa and other parts of the world, affirm that organic foods  are healthy, nutritious and remain a vital aspect of human rights to food and food security.

Informed by the robust, structured and eye-opening presentations by specialists and panelists and spontaneous  contributions by the participants, we strongly object to the release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria, convinced that GMOs are not the solution to hunger.

Nigeria’s fertile land guarantees the nation food sovereignty. Consequently, hunger  is due to bad governance, poor infrastructure for preservation and distribution of food and lack of adequate all round support to small holder farmers who constitute over 70% of the farmers in Nigeria. We, therefore, stornly recommend to  the Nigerian  Government to invest more in agriculture.

The Nigerian Bio-Safety Law, in its present form, is a recipe for the  destruction of Nigeria’s ecosystem, food cultures and systems. The process leading to its passage was devoid of critical input and public participation that would have enabled Nigerians to significantly determine and protect their food cultures and systems. It  lacks legal safeguards for protecting their rights.

We observe that the public hearing at the National Assembly did not meet an acceptable, minimum, global standard and  best practices in a democratic society. The hearing was just a  formality to create the semblance of a democratic process and skewed in favour of the GMOs Trans-National Corporations. The Government should not only introduce appropriate mechanisms but repeal the laws seeking to legalise and  adopt GMO seedlings and food products and consequently marginalize Nigerian farmers.

Furthermore, the Nigerian Bio-Safety Law is not in  the interest of Nigerian farmers and the wider public because it facilitates the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on a massive scale that  violates the precautionary principle, which forms the basis of the African Union’s revised African Model Law on Biodiversity, to which Nigeria is a signatory.

We adopt the comments of Health of Mother Earth Foundation and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria on the relevant sections of the Bio-Safety Law and strongly suggest their incorporation into the Nigerian Law to safeguard the rights of Nigerian citizens and protect Nigeria’s ecosystem.

The potential socio-economic, cultural and ethical impacts of GMOs are enormous and  diminish the positive impacts of small holder farmers who are feeding the country; promoting  cultural practices, community well-being, traditional crops and varieties; reducing rural unemployment; engendering trade; raising the quality of life of indigenous peoples; and re-affirming food security.

Aware that the UN recognizes socio-economic consideration as a key element in biosafety negotiations and decision-making processes (Protocol  on  Socio-Economic Considerations; Article 26), we, therefore, appeal to the Federal Government to conduct a socio-economic impact assessment of GMOs before the Government takes measures that destroy Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

The concern about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is not only about safety  for consumers, we are equally concerned about the more damaging  systematic appropriation of the rights to seeds by the Trans-National Corporations that deprives farmers of their traditional rights to seeds, in favor of patents by multinational corporations (SouthSouth Dialogue Conference).

There has been intensive and sustained propaganda on the positive contributions of GMO on food security questions, very little has been done to draw attention to the inherent risks and hazards of industrial mono-cropping and consumption of GMOs  such as loss of biodiversity, destruction of livestock, land grabbing,  land and environmental degradation, communal conflicts over land and loss of rights. Therefore, there is an urgent  need to present the true and full picture to Nigerians.

Industrial agriculture has no real contribution to national food sovereignty of Nigeria. It is part of the western development and capitalist economic regime bent on making Africa remain a cheap resource continent and market for finished products.  More fundamentally, the GMO project is anti-creational. It disturbs, contradicts and destroys the ecosystem. God created every plant and vegetable with its seed in it.

We implore our policy makers to learn from the experience of Burkina Faso and a host of other countries that are rejecting the GMOs and their false gospel of agricultural development. We maintain that  Nigeria’s food sovereignty lies in investing aggresively in agricuture, empowering small holder farmers, and practicing agri-ecology that is sustainable and environment-friendly.

 

Signed:

Rev  Aniedi Okure, OP   –Executive Director AFJN                    

Nnimmo Bassey — Executive Director HOMEF

Fr. Evaristus Bassey — Exective Director Caritas Nigeria and Church and Society Department

Fr.  Chika  Onyejiuwa, CSSp — Executive Secretary AEFJN, Brussels

 

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Communications:

Fr. Evaristus Bassey  Exective Director Caritas Nigeria and Church and Society Department

CBCN www.cbcn.org; www.caritasnigeria.orgfrevaristus@ccfng.org

Aniedi Okure OP,   AFJN http://www.afjn.org/  director@afjn.org, +1-202-817- 3670;

Nnimmo Bassey, HOMEF – www.homef.org  Nnimmo Bassey —  nnimmo@homef.org  ,

Mariann Bassey- Friends of Earth Campaigner  Orovwuje anybassi@yahoo.com  +234-703-449-5940.

Fr. Vincent Ajayi, voajayi@gmail.com  +234-803-308-6456;

Chika Onyejiuwa, C.S.Sp, AEFJN www.aefjn.org/execsecretary@aefjn.org ; +32466182622

 

*Resolutions of the Conference

 

Nigerian Biosafety Law: A Keg of Gun Powder

Nigerian Biosafety Law:  A Keg of Gun Powder

As you will hear in this conference, the Nigerian Biosafety Management Act (2015) is a highly defective piece of legislation contrived to open up Nigeria for a literal GMO invasion. HOMEF has examined the law and our publication on its yawning short comings is available online and in hard copies. We demand that the law be drastically and transparently reviewed to safeguard our environment, health, food systems and future generations. We also demand that the applications by Monsanto to introduce genetically modified maize and cotton into Nigeria be set aside as Nigeria must not be a dumping ground for failed or risky technologies.

It is an honour to welcome you all to this conference jointly hosted by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), the Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN).

The ink with which the Nigerian Biosafety Management Act of 2015 was signed into law had hardly dried when the Nigerian Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA) quickly received applications for genetically modified maize and cotton from Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited and advertised same for public comments. The rush was such that the advertisement of the applications published in Leadership (Thursday, February 25,2016) had two display duration dates with one saying 29th February to 28th March 2016 and another paragraph stating 22nd February to 15 March 2016. Two conflicting dates in the same advert does raise cause for concern.  Also puzzling is the fact that the advertisement was published in February 25, 2016 but the deadline mentioned in the notice took effect from February 22nd.  We submitted objections to the two applications and copies of the objections are available for participants in this conference.

We were not surprised by the move of NABMA because even before the law was signed in the dying days of the previous administration, the National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) had at a press conference on 17th July 2014 stated that they were working to fast track the adoption of genetically modified organisms in Nigeria. At that time, the agency claimed there were sufficient safeguards to protect Nigerians from the unpredictable consequences of introducing GMOs into our environment. Their acclaimed safeguards included the “a draft Biosafety Bill, biosafety application guidelines, biosafety containment facilities guidelines, and a variety of forms such as those for accreditation, GMO import and shipment form and a host of drafts.”[1]

The average Nigerians tend to think that any fruit that is bigger than normal is genetically modified. They also think that genetically modified crops grow rapidly, have high yields and are more nutritious than their normal counterparts. People routinely ask how the growing population would be fed without modern biotechnology.

All these are myths that the industry has quite successfully propagated. People believe these false claims without demanding for evidence beyond the scientific sounding terminologies: genetically, engineered, etc. Very few Nigerians know that genetic engineering is actually a cut and paste technology where genetic materials when inserted often arrives at unintended locations. Moreover, up to 70% of the world’s population is fed by small scale farmers and not from the products of genetic engineering. Indeed, a bulk of genetically engineered crops produced over the past two decades are used mostly as animal feed.

Some of us are concerned that agricultural modern biotechnology or genetic engineering is already being surreptitiously introduced into Nigeria. In 2006/2007 Friends of the Earth Africa groups detected illegal genetically modified rice on Nigeria’s market shelves. The findings were reported to the Federal Ministry of Environment and NAFDAC with no response from either. Finding an illegal GMO rice on Nigeria’s market shelf through a very random search suggests to us that we may be sitting on a keg of gun powder.

Africa is a frontier yet to be conquered by the biotech industry. Attempts to introduce the engineered crops to small scale farmers have met spectacular failures- especially with regard to cotton engineered to be pest resistant – as have been exemplified in South Africa and Burkina Faso. Other than cotton, the attempts have been on staple crops that our peoples depend on, including cassava, beans (cowpea)and bananas. The significance of such attempts is that our staples are captured by the biotech industry, then our agriculture and food will inexorably fall into their control.

Genetic engineering is still a “young” science, even though there already are more extreme versions of biotechnology , notably, synthetic biology. As you will learn from this conference, the drawbacks of agricultural genetic engineering are numerous and work against the grain of African agricultural systems. For one, they are mostly grown as monocultures, depend on agro toxics or agro-chemicals and on artificial fertilizer.

Concerns include negative impact on agro-ecosystems, such as development of resistance in target insect pests, harmful effects on non-target insects, development of herbicide tolerance in weeds, and genetic erosion or loss of traditional crop diversity as a result of genetic contamination through cross-fertilization.[3] . As the research by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the USA showed, yield gains have been due to improved traditional breeding methods and other agricultural practices other than those of genetic engineering. [4] Moreover, it does not make sense comparing the product of mono-culture with the product of multi-culture.

Hunger is caused by poverty and not by a lack of food. A majority of those who go to bed hungry are actually farmers. They suffer hunger because they have to sell off their produce in order to meet financial obligations related to family needs. In addition, farmers in rural communities with poor infrastructure are simply unable to get their harvests to markets where they could obtain reasonable prices. This dearth of infrastructure and social support opens our farmers to multiple layers of exploitation and deprivation.

We are concerned that rather than focusing on supporting local farmers who are known to hold the key for supply of wholesome food now and in the future, our agencies appear to have thrown caution to the winds, ignore the Precautionary Principle – the very bedrock of biosafety- and are embracing risky technologies and systems that would eventually lead to a colonisation of our agriculture.

As you will hear in this conference, the Nigerian Biosafety Management Act (2015) is a highly defective piece of legislation contrived to open up Nigeria for a literal GMO invasion. HOMEF has examined the law and our publication on its yawning short comings is available online and in hard copies. We demand that the law be drastically and transparently reviewed to safeguard our environment, health, food systems and future generations. We also demand that the applications by Monsanto to introduce genetically modified maize and cotton into Nigeria be set aside as Nigeria must not be a dumping ground for failed or risky technologies.

Let me conclude these welcome words by sharing an extract of what HOMEF stands for:

HOMEF is an environmental/ecological think tank and advocacy organisation. It is rooted in solidarity and in the building and protection of human and collective dignity. We believe that neoliberal agendas driven by globalization of exploitation of the weak, despoliation of ecosystems and lack of respect for Mother Earth thrive mostly because of the ascendancy of enforced creed of might is right. This ethic permits the powerful to pollute, grab resources and degrade/destroy the rest simply because they can do so. HOMEF recognizes that this reign of (t)error can best be tackled through a conscious examination of the circumstances by which the trend crept in and got entrenched. Thus, HOMEF will have as a cardinal work track continuous political education aimed at examining the roots of exploitation of resources, labour, peoples and entire regions. HOMEF hopes through this to contribute to the building of movements for recovery of memory, dignity and harmonious living with full respect of natural cycles of Mother Earth.[5]

Welcome to fruitful deliberations.

-ends-

(Welcome words by Nnimmo Bassey, Director Health of Mother Earth Foundation, at the Conference on The Nigerian Biosafety Act and GMOs – Implications for Nigerians and Africa held in Abuja 24-25th May 2016)

NOTES

[1] See Joke Falaju. July 18, 2014. Nigeria to accelerate adoption of GM crops. The guardian, reposted on https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/07/18/nigeria-to-accelerate-adoption-of-gm-crops/ and accessed on 23 May 2016. See also, HOMEF.2014. Not on our PlatesWhy Nigeria does not need GM food – http://www.homef.org//sites/default/files/pubs/not-on-our-plates.pdf

[2]BBC. EU allows sale of more GM food crops for livestock. 24 April 2015 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32450268

[3] Friends of the Earth International.2003. Playing with Hunger – The reality behind the shipment of GMOs as Food Aid. Amsterdam. Pp9-10

[4] Union of Concerned Scientists.2009. Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops. http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/failure-to-yield.html#.V0LSFGM-iFI Accessed 23.05.2016

See also http://thefreethoughtproject.com/buy-myth-gmo-crops-increase-yields/ and http://www.gmwatch.org/news/archive/2013/15065-union-of-concerned-scientists-respond-again-to-pam-ronald-s-attacks

[5] See more at: http://www.homef.org/content/about-home#sthash.6dHW5m8U.dpuf

When the Land Bleeds

A day at Ogoni was a homecoming of sorts for me yesterday when the global wave of #BreakFree actions touched down at Bori. The resolve of the Ogoni to peacefully and determinedly fight ecocide is legendary.

The women, with their colourful MOSOP wrappers, were at the Peace Centre before others began to arrive. Etched on their faces were the marks of solidarity, discipline and fortitude that has kept them going in the face of horrendous ecological assaults.  They seemed to say: We will not be moved. Our land must be detoxified.

Ogoni Ecological Defenders (OED) were on hand to help with setting up the props for the actions that were to follow. The OED and Ogoni Women Ecological Defenders (OWED) have been closely connected to HOMEF over the last two years, building knowledge on ways of engaging with the expected Ogoni cleanup process and generally defending their ecosystems.

With music, chants, poetry and spontaneous dance, the march and the rally took place under a bright Ogoni sky. A chant of Ogoni united can never be defeated was quickly taken up by the crowd. Call and responses followed: What do we want? Clean up Ogoni! When do we want it? Now!

A second phase of the Break Free action was a visit to a severely polluted community in B-Dere. The trip led by energetic activist, Celestine Akpobari of Peoples Advancement Centre, was an eye opener. Although the community is a shouting distance from the highway, getting there we met a community that might as well have been at the end of the Earth. Absolutely devastated by an oil spill in 2010 and fire, the pollution stubbornly remains untouched. The villagers were hard at work in their farms by the river bank as we went by.

On the surface the crops looked healthy and flourishing. But their harvest will definitely be one of poison, thanks to the highly contaminate soil, water and air. When you visit places like this you cannot say anything other than: keep it in the ground.

See a short video summary of the day here.