By; Sheila Ukadike
Debate and discussions on Genetically Modified Organisms / Foods (GMO) have become the new song in the lips of many Nigerians and Agric stakeholders in Nigeria today.

Most people have been wondering if genetically modified foods are actually safe and healthy for human consumption especially in the long term.

The debate on GMO has become controversial as much as it has become timely.
With numerous concerns being expressed about possible GMO effects on human health and the environment, it has become necessary to educate the public on Genetically Modified Foods.

First, let us know what GMOs are;
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.

The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”.

It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non related species. Food produced from or using Genetically Modified organisms are often referred to as GM foods.

There is of course no doubt that GMO has its merit, which could be a solution in resolving world crisis of acute famine especially amongst developing nations. But caution must be applied in its acceptability and regulation in a society like Nigeria considering our weak institutions and inadequate diagnostic infrastructure for detection of GMO related products, controlling and detecting the consequences of GMO in our society.

The dangers of genetically modified food to the health and the environment surpasses the advantages.

Those that stand to gain are the multinational biotech companies controlling food supply around the world and they will eventually force the local farmers out of the market.
Some Genetically Modified products are modified using bacteria and viruses, thus there is fear that there could be an emergence of new diseases.

GMOs are said to increase the risk of certain cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

According to studies carried out by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) on GM foods, it showed organ damage, gastro intestinal and immune system disorders, including accelerated aging and infertility in lab animals.

Research has identified that toxins emanating from GMOs have been found in maternal and fetal blood. Other compounds are also found in genetically modified foods that trigger early puberty and infertility. The DNAs of GMO can be passed to humans that consume them.
Dependency on foreign companies that created and control GM foods and agricultural practices is another point of consideration by its introduction.

There is a possibility that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals.

A proposal to incorporate a gene from Brazil nuts into soybeans was abandoned because of the fear of causing unexpected allergic reactions. Extensive testing of GM foods may be required to avoid the possibility of harm to consumers with food allergies.

A major disadvantage of this technology is the contamination of natural varieties due to the wind causing pollen drift. Farmers that utilize these products as well as agencies that would supposedly “regulate” them cannot guarantee natural varieties would not become contaminated.

There is also a growing concern that introducing foreign genes into food plants may have an unexpected and negative impact on human health.

The question now is; does Nigeria actually need this new wave of colonization of our food system, empowered by patent laws and control of seeds which produce sterile offspring? Does Nigeria need this new layer of dependency?

Nigeria is a country blessed with fertile soil and arable land, the Nigerian soil is one of the best in the world for crop cultivation.

In this regard, Agro News Nigeria has taken a stand with the voices against the introduction of GMOs in Nigeria at this time.

The government should focus on the exploitation of the massive agricultural resource present in the different soils of our land. The government should implement policies that would encourage massive food production, while building infrastructure that would encourage and support storage and processing of agric produce by farmers.

Let the abundant food and agricultural riches contained in our soil be harnessed!

#Say no to GMOs#