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Saturday, June 25, 2016

House summons agric minister, Ogbeh over GMO food import

The lower chambers of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives have summoned the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, over concerns allegedly arising from the importation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) foods into Nigeria, reports NaijaAgroNet.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), GMOs are organisms including plants, animals or microorganisms in which the genetic material (DNA) have been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and or natural recombination.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that recently over 100 groups representing some 5 million Nigerians, comprising of farmers, faith-based organisations, civil society groups, students and local community groups, passionately opposed 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 cited numerous serious health and environmental concerns and the failure of these crops especially GM cotton in Africa, alleging that the former President, Goodluck Jonathan hurriedly signed the bill on National Biosafety Management into law at the exit point.

They rejected the plans for the regulator to licence Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited which applied to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA) 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 they said was made for the confined field trial (CFT) of two GM maize varieties (NK603 and stacked event MON 89034 x NK603) in multiple locations in Nigeria.

NaijaAgroNet further gathered that NBMA, the regulatory body for biotechnology in Nigeria, had since May 1, a public holiday in Nigeria, issued two permits signed by the DG, NBMA, Mr. Rufus Ebegba, to Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited for the commercial release and market placement of these GMO cotton and the confined field trial of GMO maize.

However, the summon monitored on Channels TV, followed a motion raised by a member of the House of Representatives from Imo State, Hon. Austin Ikechukwu, on Thursday at the National Assembly in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which was promptly carried.

Also, the House in agreeing to the summon, asked the Minister to appear before them over the issuance of permits to a company, Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Limited, to introduce some of the foods into the Nigerian market.

The House Committees on Healthcare Services and Agriculture Products have been mandated to also meet with the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on the impact of GMO.

The committees are to get a list of food supplements and genetically modified foods that have been granted NAFDAC registration numbers and have 12 weeks to report back to the House.

Isaac Oyimah/Channels TV/GEE.

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Pix Audu Ogbeh.

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