Should commercialization 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.
One hundred civil society groups representing over 5 million Nigerians are opposing opposing Monsanto's attempts to introduce genetically modified (GM) cotton and maize into Nigeria's food and farming systems.
They are objecting to the application by Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA) for the environmental release and placing in the market in Zaria and surrounding towns of GM cotton containing Bt.
A further Monsanto application is for the confined field trial of two GM maize varieties in multiple locations in Nigeria genetically modified to resist the controversial herbicide glyphosate.
According to Mariann Orovwuje, Friends of the Earth International's Food Sovereignty co-coordinator, "Should commercialization 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."
In written objections submitted to the biosafety regulators, the groups have cited numerous serious health and environmental concerns and the failure of these crops especially GM cotton in Africa.
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 the dismal failures of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso. The quality of GM cotton in Brukina Faso had dropped substantially, leading to a phase out of the crop, along with farmers seeking $280 million compensation for their losses.
The 100 groups, listed in full below, include farmers, faith-based organisations, civil society groups, students and local communities.
'Bt cotton has brought nothing but economic misery!'
According to Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth - one of the groups in the frontline of the resistance:
"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."
He further asks the pointed question: "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 them is the apparent conflict of interests displayed by the Nigerian regulatory agencies, who are publicly supporting the introduction of GMOs into Nigeria whereas these regulators (NAMBA) are legally bound to remain impartial and regulate in the public interest.
Glyphosate - the silent poison
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, together with expression of the Bt insecticide.
Last year the International Agency for Research on Cancer (the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization) assessed the carcinogenicity of glyphosate and concluded that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans". There is also increasing scientific evidence that glyphosate poses serious risks to the environment.
"Recent studies have linked glyphosate to health effects such as degeneration of the liver and kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma", said Orovwuje. "That NABMA 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."
Despite the growing fears about glyphosate, Monsanto's application provides no discussion on its potential risks 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 since maize is a staple food that all 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 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.
The complaint: 'Objection to Monsanto’s application for confined field trials with (1) NK603 and (2) MON89034 X NK603 maize in Nigeria (multi - season) by Health Of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and Environmental Rights Action / Friends Of The Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOEN)'
Vanessa Amaral-Rogers is a freelance journalist writing mainly on environmental themes.
Source: Health of Mother Earth Foundation.
Groups Endorsing the Objection to Monsanto's applications
- 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
- Institute 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)
- 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)
- 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
- 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)