Dear Friends of the Earth,
RePlanet Africa draws attention to your recent statement regarding genetically modified (GM) food in Nigeria, as reported in the article titled “Why European Countries Reject Kontagora, Potiskum Beans” published by Daily Trust. The coordinator of the Food Sovereignty Program at Friends of the Earth Africa, Ms. Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje was quoted as saying, “Efforts were underway to sensitize farmers on the effects of GM food”, which you claim has caused a lot of diseases for Nigerians.
We would like to address some of the claims made in your statement. Firstly, it is important to note that the Federal Government of Nigeria approved the commercialization of a biotech cowpea variety resistant to pod borers in December 2019. The release took almost 10 years of intensive trials because the Government needed to ensure that the GM bean was safe for human consumption and the environment.
Secondly, claims that GM technology is alien to Nigerian scientists are also false. The GM bean variety, known as SAMPEA 20-T is resistant to Maruca vitrata pod borer which causes upto 80% yield loss, was developed by scientists from the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in collaboration with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). This research was led by a Nigerian, Prof. Ishiyaku.
It is unfortunate that organizations claiming to be “friends of the earth” and by extension farmers, spread unfounded misinformation, which aims to scare people from planting and consuming GM beans. The lead researcher, Prof. Ishiyaku, has been quoted by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) as stating that the protein and nutrient content of SAMPEA 20-T is the same as that of other conventional varieties. This means that the BT gene introduced into the variety has no negative influence on the nutritional composition of both grain and fodder.
Moreover, this bean not only contributes to the nation’s protein needs but also protects farmers and environmental health by reducing exposure to pesticides. The non-GM variety requires eight sprays per season, whereas the GM counterpart requires only one or two sprays per season.
Accusations of GM foods causing “a lot of diseases to Nigerians” should not be taken lightly. Such claims are not only unfounded but have far-reaching consequences, including the continued resistance to the adoption of GM crops and the maintenance of the food and nutrition deficit in Africa. We cannot continue to demonize technological advancements in agriculture and still claim to be on the path to reducing hunger and poverty in the region.
As friends of science, evidence, and Africa, RePlanet Africa supports the adoption of GM crop varieties because they have been proven to be safe. Since the first commercialization of GM crops 18 years ago there has been no evidence of ill effects linked to the consumption of any approved GM crop. They have been approved for commercialization by national biosafety agencies and have been deemed safe by world safeguarding bodies such as the World Health Organization.
According to the WHO, “GM foods currently available on the market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health.” Furthermore, numerous independent scientific studies and reviews have found no evidence of harm associated with the consumption of GM foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.
Therefore, we request Friends of the Earth, to retract its false statement and instead join us and several scientists and farmers in Nigeria and across Africa to work towards environmental protection and human prosperity. We cannot prosper with a hungry population. It is certain that RePlanet Africa and Friends of the Earth are pulling in the same direction – towards improved yields, well-fed communities, higher income for farmers, and environmental protection. We invite you to listen to the science and allow GM technology to make its contribution to the prosperity of our motherland.