The Bishop of the Catholic Arch Diocese of Abuja, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has said that the Catholic Church has nothing against or for the controversial Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria.
The Bishop made the position known in Abuja on Tuesday at a one day workshop tagged: Agricultural Biotechnology Regulation of Genetically Modified organism in Nigeria: Faith Based Perspectives.
Cardinal Onaiyekan, who was represented by his Auxiliary, Most. Rev. Anselm Umoren at the occasion said the Catholic Church does not have anything against GMO or against it, but believes that Biotechnology is about science, which is about many other things that are much more natural than manipulation of genes for certain results.
He said that the issue of GMO will continue to generate tension in the country until all the scientific proofs are substantiated and certified.
‘‘The catholic Church has nothing or against GMO. The issue of GMO will continue to generate tension. I am not sure whether, it is not about Catholic Church but it is about humanity in general and it has to do with safety, health and so on.
‘‘The discussion today seems to have an aspect that has not being talked about, the issue of biotechnology. Biotechnology is about so many other things that are much more natural than manipulation of genes for certain results.
‘‘What we are concerned about is safety of lives which has to do with health and that is part of the discussions today, which is part of the reason for the seminar. People will come to understand that there are so many ways of producing food and GMO is not the only way to solving food security problems.’’
On whether Biotechnology can address the food safety challenge, the Bishop said, ‘‘there is a difference between biotechnology and GMO, which should be kept in mind. Our hunger problem is not as a result of lack of GMO foods, it is much more than that comprising bad management, economy and as a result, things are not going the way they are supposed to go and that is why people are hungry. A lot of things are not going well in this country, the prices of food items have gone up in the market and the economy is not in good shape.
‘‘If you drive through Gboko to Cross River, you will see food wasting in the farms, people are producing food because they do not have the means to transport those food items.
‘‘It is much more than talking about GMO foods. The hunger we have today has to do with lots of other issues, which I think government has to take into consideration.’’
On whether Nigeria should adopt GMO, he said, ‘‘you don’t adopt what you don’t know. You only adopt what you have explored all the avenues. People talk about GMO foods, but why can’t we develop our land and grow food in the normal way until when we do not have land? We can decide what we want to explore. I believe that in whatever we decide to explore, we have an option.’’
On carrying people along, the Bishop said, ‘‘there is need for stakeholders’ discussion; there is also a need for all angle of the issue to be explored so that people will know exactly what they are getting. Though, I am not aware of people being carried along. It is about matters that concerns peoples’ health.
‘‘When you go abroad, where they sell foods, you will find out there is organic foods and GMO foods side by side, providing people with the option of what to buy. If we do not do that, you are putting the lives of people in danger.
‘‘We cannot take it for granted that GMO foods are not there in our markets. I believe the agents of government are doing their work and they should be seen doing their work.’’
In her remarks, the OFAB Nigeria Chapter Coordinator, Dr. Rose Giddado, said Nigerians have been very responsive to adoption of Biotechnology but expressed regret that the campaign has faced stiff opposition from the anti-GMO elements, who she alleged to have been sponsored by agric chemical companies.
She said that her organization would sustain its awareness campaign to erase the doubts of the ignorant public who criticise the novel technology based on ignorance.
IN his own remarks, the Director General of National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, Dr. Rufus Ebegba assured that the agency as the industry regulator would not allow Nigeria to be dumping ground for unwanted GMO foods.
‘‘We need to monitor compliance. Some of the dealers have applied for license.
‘‘We are concerned on safety of these products not just bringing in products. The essence of the products is for health. There is need for the proponents of the technology to enlighten the people.’’
On the choice of religious group, Ebegba said, ‘‘the religious group are powerful and can influence on their followers. We need to give them the right information so that they can give them the right information. Religion has a major role to play in this campaign.’’
‘‘We have a law that say Nigeria will use biotechnology to drive economic diversification. Nigerian has been at the international stage. It has supported AU to also use Biotechnology and Biosafety to grow African economy.’’