Mon­santo’s plot to takeover Nige­ria’s agri­cul­ture

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

As ev­ery­one knows, one Amer­i­can com­pany called Mon­santo has been on a de­ter­mined march to take over agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion all over the world and en­slave all farm­ers and coun­tries to their com­mer­cial blood suck­ing logic. They have fi­nally found a bridge­head into Nige­ria where a door has been opened to al­low them en­ter and takeover. They have been al­lowed to ini­ti­ate so­called ex­per­i­men­tal farms to pro­duce cot­ton and maize. Their point of en­try has been the ir­re­spon­si­ble Na­tional Biotech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Agency, which has been com­pro­mised by Mon­santo to pro­vide an en­try point to take over our agri­cul­ture.

This week, I write to sup­port the great work cur­rently be­ing car­ried out by Nn­immo Bassey and his team at the Health of Mother Earth Foun­da­tion (HOMEF) to re­sist the dan­ger­ous takeover of our agri­cul­ture by Mon­santo. The Foun­da­tion has ex­posed the fact that GMOs have been ap­proved to be grown in Nige­ria and that the ap­proval was sur­rep­ti­tious. There is an ar­gu­ment whether the ap­proval was for a two-year trial process or for per­ma­nent pro­duc­tion and for me, both must be op­posed. At no time has the Nige­rian Govern­ment taken a pol­icy de­ci­sion to ap­prove GMOs and given the health dan­gers alone of this tech­nol­ogy, it is ir­re­spon­si­ble to al­low this. We can­not al­low the Na­tional Biosafety Man­age­ment Agency (NBMA) to sell our fu­ture for some tem­po­rary in­duce­ment they have re­ceived from Mon­santo. How was it al­lowed that Mon­santo Agri­cul­ture Nige­ria Ltd would reg­is­ter in the coun­try and start pro­duc­tion with­out ex­plicit ap­proval the Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil and the Na­tional As­sem­bly?

Burk­ina Faso, which took the lead on GMO pro­duc­tion in Africa, de­cided this year to aban­doned its GMO cot­ton cit­ing the in­fe­rior lint qual­ity of Mon­santo prod­ucts and the en­slave­ment of buy­ing ex­pen­sive seeds and chem­i­cals from the com­pany each year for an in­come that is less than what they were hav­ing be­fore in­tro­duc­ing it. It would be re­called that for a long time, Burk­in­abé cot­ton was renowned for its high qual­ity fol­low­ing a highly suc­cess­ful non-GM breed­ing pro­gramme founded by the French govern­ment and span­ning 70 years. The main goal of the breed­ing pro­gramme was to cre­ate cul­ti­vars that were well adapted to the grow­ing con­di­tions in West Africa and had the de­sired qual­ity char­ac­ter­is­tics, such as a high gin­ning ra­tio, which is the per­cent­age of the de­sired cot­ton fi­bre per unit weight of cot­ton de­liv­ered to the fac­tory and long sta­ple length. They fool­ishly de­cided to aban­don the home grown ap­proach and fol­low the GMO route of Mon­santo and af­ter six years of com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion, they dis­cov­ered that the qual­ity and world mar­ket price of their cot­ton had plum­meted. Cot­ton is the sec­ond-big­gest source of rev­enue for the im­pov­er­ished West African coun­try af­ter gold. It is this same GMO cot­ton that failed in Burk­ina Faso that is now be­ing in­tro­duced to Nige­ria.

I there­fore call on the Min­is­ters of Agri­cul­ture and the En­vi­ron­ment to call the Na­tional Biosafety Man­age­ment Agency to or­der and to with­draw the au­tho­riza­tion is­sued for the glyphosate in­fused maize in Nige­ria is a di­rect threat to our health. Re­cent stud­ies have linked glyphosate to health ef­fects such as de­gen­er­a­tion of the liver and kid­ney, and non-Hodgkin lym­phoma. It is un­for­tu­nate that Bill Gates with his Amer­ica First men­tal­ity is spon­sor­ing Mon­santo’s Wa­ter Ef­fi­cient Maize for Africa, a five-year de­vel­op­ment project led by the Kenyan-based African Agri­cul­tural Tech­nol­ogy Foun­da­tion, which aims to de­velop a va­ri­ety of drought­tol­er­ant maize seeds. Why will he not in­vest in the In­sti­tute of Agri­cul­tural Research project in Ah­madu Bello Uni­ver­sity that is de­vel­op­ing draught re­sis­tant maize that does not have the dan­gers of what Mon­santo is do­ing?

I have just read Chief Audu Ogbe’s Agri­cul­ture Pro­mo­tion Pol­icy 2016-2020 which out­lines an ex­cel­lent strate­gic ap­proach to ad­dress­ing the two key gaps in our agri­cul­ture today: an in­abil­ity to meet do­mes­tic food re­quire­ments, and an in­abil­ity to ex­port at qual­ity lev­els re­quired for mar­ket suc­cess. The former prob­lem is a pro­duc­tiv­ity chal­lenge driven by an in­put sys­tem and farm­ing model that is largely in­ef­fi­cient. As a result, an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion of farm­ers who do not have enough seeds, fer­til­iz­ers, ir­ri­ga­tion, crop pro­tec­tion and re­lated sup­port to be suc­cess­ful. The lat­ter chal­lenge is driven by an equally in­ef­fi­cient sys­tem for set­ting and en­forc­ing food qual­ity stan­dards, as well as poor knowl­edge of tar­get mar­kets. In­suf­fi­cient food test­ing fa­cil­i­ties, a weak in­spec­torate sys­tem in the Min­istry, and poor co­or­di­na­tion among rel­e­vant fed­eral agen­cies serve to com­pound early stage prob­lems such as poor knowl­edge of per­mis­si­ble con­tam­i­nant lev­els.

The strat­egy he pro­poses is to ad­dress the chal­lenges of food in­se­cu­rity and the eco­nomic costs of im­port­ing $3 to $5 bil­lion worth of food an­nu­ally, es­pe­cially wheat, rice, fish and sundry items, in­clud­ing fresh fruits by look­ing in­ward. The Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture is propos­ing that agri­cul­tural research in the coun­try should re­ceive mas­sive sup­port. Our gov­ern­ments would en­gage its research in­sti­tu­tions and bod­ies at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in the coun­try, to con­duct research for in­creased agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity and to make the research re­sults avail­able to farm­ers and other ac­tors in the agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment of the states. That is the way to go. Was it not just a cou­ple of weeks ago that the In­sti­tute of Agri­cul­tural Research of Ah­madu Bello Uni­ver­sity found a cure for the ter­ri­ble blight of the tomato Ebola dis­ease that wiped out fresh stew from our homes re­cently. Let’s em­power our research in­sti­tutes for our own good.

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