Addressing GMOS’ promise, problems
THE debate over the promise and problems of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) has continued to rage. GMO has become a controversial topic as its benefits for both food producers and consumers are companied by potential biomedical risks and environmental side effects. Increasing concerns from the public about GMO, particularly in the form of genetic modified (GM) foods, are aimed at the short- and long-lasting health problems that may result from this advanced biotechnology. Complex studies are being carried out around the world independently to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of GM foods.
The debates over GM foods focus mostly on uncertainties concerning the potential adverse effects of GM foods on human health and environmental safety. The anxiety among consumers can be attributed to four sources: the difficulty of the scientific community in explaining concisely to the lay public the biological techniques involved; concerns about the improper dissemination of GM foods; and the ethical principles inherent in traditional food processing; the misgivings with regards to the adequacy of evaluation of the GM foods.
Three major health risks potentially associated with GM foods are: toxicity, allergenicity and genetic hazards. These arise from three potential sources, the inserted gene and their expressed proteins per se, secondary or pleiotropic effects of the products of gene expression, and the possible disruption of natural genes in the manipulated organism.
For one thing, the unequivocal declaration that all GM crops are safe flies in the face of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’S) assertion that “it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.” As the WHO noted, because “different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways” it is necessary to assess them “on a case-by-case basis.”
To domesticate and address the concerns about the safety of GMOS, the Federal Government has established the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) and the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).
The NBMA was established by the National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015, to provide regulatory framework to adequately safe guard human health and the environment from potential adverse effects of modern biotechnology and genetically modified organisms, while harnessing the potentials of modern biotechnology and its derivatives, for the benefit of Nigerians.
Assistant Director/country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Nigeria Chapter, Dr. Rose Maxwell Gidado, told Theguardian unequivocally: “The WHO has given the final verdict that ‘no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of GM foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.’”
Gidado during a courtesy visit to Theguardian, in company of the Regional Director, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Abuja, West Africa, Dr. Abdou Rhamane Issoufou Kollo, concluded: “Any quest to prove beyond doubt that GMOS are safe will run into the same roadblock, as nothing can be proven 100 per cent safe. More than 2,000 studies and 20 plus years of consumption by humans and animals have produced no evidence that GMOS represent an unusual health risk. Every major health and regulatory body in the world agrees. Critics are left holding out the argument that there is unknown threats lurking in the shadows of our future.”
AATF is a not-for-profit organisation that facilitates and pro- motes public/private partnerships for the access and delivery of appropriate agricultural technologies for sustainable use by smallholder farmers in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) through innovative partnerships and effective stewardship along the entire value chain.
Kollo told Theguardian: “In Africa, resistance to GMO crops is strong. Organized groups supported by Europeans’ Non Governmental Organisations (NGOS) mostly cause it. These groups appear very dynamic. Excited by two recent contradictory events about GM crops in West Africa - the decision of the Government of Burkina Faso to stop growing Bt-cotton; and the decision of the Nigerian Government to authorize its cropping- the ANTI-GMO proponents became hyperactive; they have been organizing concerts, radio talk shows, workshops and conferences. Their methods consist of creating confusion about GMOS and scaring the uninformed public of the supposed dangers of GM crops. Thus, mineral fertilizers, pesticides, hybrids and GMOS are often lumped together. It is appears that some of the anti-gmo proponents are organic farming crusaders who want to impose their views on the society.”
Gidado and Kollo urged the media to help in educating the public of the benefits of biotechnology to the country and Africa.
Gidado said the agency’s mandate is to ensure adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of GMOS resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on conservation. She said that there is going to be direct and indirect employment and production of high quality materials for industries regarding the emergence of NBDA in the country.
Gidado said that modern biotechnology as a term adopted by international convention to refer to biotechnological techniques for the manipulation of genetic material and the fusion of cells beyond normal breeding barriers.
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GMOS... FOR AND AGAINST