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Despite the benefits attributed to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in agriculture and food production, experts have raised fresh concern on its effect on human health and the environment.
GMO is a system of recombining DNA technology or transferring engineered genes into an animal or plant or using chemicals to enhance crop productivity.
Speaking during media training on implications of GMO crops in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, experts fault claims that GM crops were options to tackling food shortage and hunger in the country.
A Microbiologist at the University of Abuja, Dr. Ifeanyi Casmir, warned Nigerians to steer clear of the GMO crops, as they are capable of impacting the environment and human health negatively.
The Director of Health Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, also said, food safety should be a concern to all, urging Nigerians to seek to know where the food they eat come from, how it was cultivated and traded, warning that a lot of food in circulation are dangerous to health.
Casmir said, “Nigerians must know that the way and manner we deploy chemicals in our soil and in our farming system are a disaster that is already with us and more will manifest much later if nothing is done to stop it. You modify the corn to make it herbicide-tolerant, you take the beans and modify it, as it’s growing, it is producing a chemical that kills pests, so it harms human lives.
“The worry we have as scientists with a bias for health is how safe are our GMOs because all the selling points of the pro-GMO scientists and activists have a caveat in them. They will say, it is not risky, they will tell you it has no potential to cause harm to man, they are not very emphatic and conclusive and driving from what we know before, we were told to embrace it, accept it and we did, later on, as knowledge grows, we noticed it is unsafe.”
While stressing that GMO is not a silver bullet that would solve the problem of food security, hunger, and drought in the nation, he regretted that the Nigerian government appears to be napping over the raging storm.
“The more we bring agencies whose duties are to regulate biodiversity, genetic materials, biosafety into the processes of approving applications into safety, we will be protecting Nigeria,” the don added.
On his part, Bassey said, GM crops are not the solution to the food and nutrition security problems in the country
“The issue of food safety concerns everybody because we all eat food and we need to know if the food is safe, where did the food come from? How was the food cultivated? How is it traded? Is the cultivation method safe for our environment? Is the food we are eating well for our culture? Does it add value to our lives?
“This is because the GM crops are a major threat to lives, our supermarkets are loaded with genetically modified products but people just buy them without reading or checking the ingredients on the labels.”
He noted that about 30 per cent of foods produced in the country is wasted or used to feed the animal, arguing that the small-scale farmers if empowered can naturally produce sufficient food for the populace.