Nigerian civil society groups, faith-based organizations, farmers associations, students and local community groups are calling for a global mobilization to object to an application to the Nigerian National Biosafety Management Agency in Abuja by Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited for the release of genetically modified cotton and corn onto Nigeria’s agriculture system. Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited is a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Monsanto Company.
In a message to organizations to join the cause, Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, Programme Manager, Food Sovereignty ERA, and Food Sovereignty Coordinator, Friends of the Earth Africa, insisted, “Monsanto is pushing so hard to introduce Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into Nigeria. They just submitted two applications that we have immediately opposed with the support of over 100 Nigerian groups. Because of Nigeria is a very important country in Africa and its disproportionate influence within Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), your efforts are highly strategic for the wider movement in West Africa and beyond. We desire to escalate a global rejection of the applications.”
On October 27, 2013, the Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria wrote an open letter to Mr. David Mark, President of the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria, titled A Case for Expulsion of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation from Nigeria for threatening the Food Security of the People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The doctors pointed to the Gates Foundation’s funding of scientific research by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center which had then been retracted by its authors after it failed to withstand scientific scrutiny. The Science Center’s paper, Transgenic Bio-fortification of the Starchy Staple Cassava (Manihot esculenta) Generates a Novel Sink for Protein, concluded that cassava could one day be “capable of supplying inexpensive, plant-based proteins for food, feed and industrial applications.”
Furthermore, the doctors argued that “the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through some local actors like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigerian National Root Crop Research Institute, BioCassava Plus, and international actors like Rockefeller Foundation, Cargill, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Syngenta, Bayer, and Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI), have continued to unlawfully introduce the Bill Gates transgenic variants of cassava, rice, maize, yam and sorghum to displace the natural food crops in Nigeria and across Africa” due to lawlessness in dealing with testing genetically modified foods for safety purposes.
On January 19, 2016, Brian Dowd-Uribe of the University of San Francisco and Mathew A. Schnurr of Dalhousie University published in Oxford Journals, Briefing: Burkina Faso’s reversal on genetically modified cotton and the implications for Africa. They confirmed that “Burkina Faso has begun a complete phase-out of GM cotton, citing the inferior lint quality of the GM cultivars, as the reason for abandoning its cultivation.” They also predicted that a “Burkina Faso phase-out could stall or even end negotiations to adopt GM cotton in other francophone African countries with similar concerns over cotton quality.” It was in 2009 that Monsanto’s Bollgard II trait (Bt) was introduced in Burkina Faso. It has been reported that Burkina Faso’s cotton farmers association, after failed negotiations with Monsanto, have taken them to court and are asking for $83.91 million in compensation for lost revenue as a result of Monsato’s GM bad quality cotton.
The threat of takeover of Africa’s indigenous seed by introducing genetically modified seed has long-term consequences. Opponents to Monsato’s introduction of GM cotton in Nigeria say, among other things, that what is at stake is the “protection of Nigeria’s biodiversity and natural resources; promotion of sustainable agriculture and economic development for the benefit of both the present and future generations; promotion of gender equality and equity in biotechnology undertakings; [and the] promotion of traditional crops, animal genotypes and indigenous knowledge.”
Cassava, rice, maize, yam, and sorghum are major staple foods for millions of people in Africa and elsewhere and are community-owned plants and seeds. Allowing them to be owned by Monsato, its associates or anyone else is a serious economic, social and political mistake which Africa cannot afford to make.