Groups oppose Monsanto’s GM maize, cotton proposal


      Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation

About 100 groups representing some five million Nigerians, comprising farmers, faith-based organisations, civil society groups, students and local community groups, have lodged an opposition to Monsanto’s attempts to introduce genetically modified (GM) cotton and maize into Nigeria’s food and farming systems. In written objections submitted to the biosafety regulators, the groups have cited numerous health and environmental concerns and alleged failure of these crops, especially GM cotton, in Africa.

Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited has applied to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) for the environmental release and placing in the market in Zaria and surrounding towns of GM cotton (Bt cotton, event MON 15985). A further application is for the confined field trial (CFT) of two GM maize varieties (NK603 and stacked event MON 89034 x NK603) in multiple locations in Nigeria.

In their objection to the commercial release of Bt cotton into Nigeria, the groups are particularly alarmed that the application has come so close after reported failures of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso.

Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) – one of the groups in the frontline of the resistance – stated: “We are totally shocked that it should come so soon after peer reviewed studies have showed that the technology has failed dismally in Burkina Faso. It has brought nothing but economic misery to the cotton sector there and is being phased out in that country where compensation is being sought from Monsanto.”

Then he demanded: “Since our Biosafety Act has only recently entered into force, what biosafety legislation was used to authorise and regulate the field trials in the past in accordance with international law and best biosafety practice?”

According to the groups, former president, Goodluck Jonathan, “hastily” signed the National Biosafety Management Bill into law, in the twilight days of his tenure in office. Further worrying, they added, is the apparent conflict of interests displayed by the Nigerian regulatory agencies, “who are publically supporting the introduction of GMOs into Nigeria whereas these regulators (the NMBA) are legally bound to remain impartial and regulate in the public interest.”


         Rufus Ebegba, DG of NBMA

Bassey stresses that Monsanto’s GM maize application is in respect of a stacked event, including the herbicide tolerant trait intended to confer tolerance to the use of the herbicide, glyphosate. In 20 March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), assessed the carcinogenicity of glysophate and concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” There is also increasing scientific evidence that glyphosate poses serious risks to the environment, added the activist.

According to Mariann Orovwuje, Friends of the Earth International’s Food Sovereignty co-coordinator, “Should commercialisation of Monsanto’s GM maize be allowed pursuant to field trials, this will result in increased use of glyphosate in Nigeria, a chemical that is linked to causing cancer in humans. Recent studies have linked glyphosate to health effects such as degeneration of the liver and kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That NBMA is even considering this application is indeed unfortunate and deeply regrettable, knowing full well about the uncontrolled exposure that our rural farmers and communities living close to farms will be exposed to.

“Monsanto’s application deceitfully provides no discussion on the potential risks of glysophate use to human and animal health and the environment. Apart from the potential of contaminating local varieties, the health risk of the introduction of genetically modified maize into Nigeria is enormous considering the fact that maize is a staple that all of 170 million Nigerians depend on.”

The groups are urging the Nigerian government to reject Monsanto’s applications out of hand. They note with disquiet that there is a serious lack of capacity within Nigeria to adequately control and monitor the human and environmental risks of GM crops and glyphosate. Further, they added, there is virtually no testing of any food material and products in Nigeria for glyphosate or other pesticide residues, or the monitoring of their impact on the environment including water resources.

Groups endorsing the objection to Monsanto’s applications include:

All Nigeria Consumers Movement Union (ANCOMU)

Committee on Vital Environmental Resources (COVER)

Community Research and Development Centre (CRDC)

Ijaw Mothers of Warri Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN)

Host Communities Network of Nigeria (HoCoN)

Oilwatch Nigeria Green Alliance,

Nigeria African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development

Istitute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL)

Women Environmental Programme (WEP)

Persons with Disabilities Action Network (PEDANET)

Students Environmental Assembly of Nigeria (SEAN)

Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)

Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF)

KebetKache Women Development and Resource Centre

Federation of Urban Poor (FEDUP)

Community Forest Watch (CFW)

The Young Environmentalist Network (TYEN)

Women’s Rights to Education Program (WREP)

Community Action for Public Action (CAPA)

Peoples Advancement Centre (ADC)

Bori Social Action SPEAK

Nigeria Host Communities Network

Urban Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED)

Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI)

Women’s Right to Education Programme (WREP)

Foundation for Rural/Urban Integration (FRUIT)

Community Action for Popular Participation

Torjir-Agber Foundation (TAF)

Civil Society on Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE),

Jireh Doo Foundation

Advocate for Community Vision and Development (ACOVID)

Initiative for empowerment for vulnerable (IEV)

Kwaswdoo Foundation Initiative (KFI)

Environment and Climate Change Amelioration Initiative) ECCAI

Manna Love and care Foundation (MLC)

Okaha Women and children development Organisation (OWCDO)

JODEF-F Glorious things ministry (GTM)

Daughters of Love Foundation

Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN)

Community Links and Empowerment Initiative (CLHEI)

Nigerian Women in Agriculture (NAWIA)

Osa Foundation

Initiative for Improved Health and Wealth Creation (IIHWC)

Peace Health Care Initiative (PHCI)

Ochilla Daughters Foundation (ODF)

African Health Project (AHP)

Artists in Development

Ramberg Child Survival Initiative (RACSI)

Global Health and Development initiative

First Step Initiative (FIP)

Ruhujukan Environment Development Initiative (REDI)

The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), Nigeria

Center for Children’s Health Education, Orientation Protection (CEE Hope) and CEEHOPE Nigeria

Next Generation Youth Initiative (NGI)

Akwa Ibom Information and Research Organisation (AIORG)

Rural Action for Green Environment (RAGE)

United Action for Democracy

Campaign for Democracy

Yasuni Association

Egi Joint Action Congress

Green Concern for Development (Greencode)

Kebetkache Ahoada Women Farmers Cooperative

Ahoada Uzutam Women Farmers Cooperative

Ogboaku Ahoada Farmers Cooperative

Gbobia Feefeelo women

Ovelle Nyakovia Women Cooperative

Rumuekpe Women Prayer Warriors

League of Queens

Emem Iban Oku

Iboku Uchio Mpani Ibeno

Rural Health and Women Development

Women Initiative on Climate Change

Peoples’ Centre

Citizens Trust Advocacy and Development Centre (CITADEC)

Centre for Environment Media and Development Communications

Centre for Dignity

Peace and Development Project

Triumphant Foundation

Earthcare Foundation

Lokiakia Centre

Community Development and Advocacy Foundation (CODAF)

Citizens Centre for Development Strategies

Rainforest Research and Development Center

Center for Environmental Education and Development (CEED)

Initiative for the Elimination of Violence Against Women & Children (IEVAWC)

Charles and Doosurgh Abaagu Foundation

Community Emergency Response Initiative

Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN)

Shacks and Slum Dwellers Association of Nigeria

Atan Justice, Development and Peace Centre

Sisters of Saint Louis Nigeria

Life Lift Nigeria

Community Research and Development Foundation (CDLF)

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/ FoEN)

Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)

Culled from Environews