This week, on the 24th and 25th of April 2017, AFSA Members – the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and Friends of the Earth Africa – put together a training of Media Personnel and a Roundtable for Lawyers on Promoting Biosafety in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Biosafety Management Act was signed into law in May 2015 in the twilight days of our former president. Less than a year after, permits were issued for Genetically Modified (GMO) crops to be planted or field-tested in the country. While this is going on, public participation and citizens’ awareness remains at a very low level. We believe that a knowledgeable public can make a huge difference in our duty to protect our biodiversity, agriculture and food systems.
The Media Training and Lawyers Roundtable brought together Environmentalists, Scientists, Biosafety, Legal and Policy experts to share their experiences on GMOs, analysis, and best practice on gene flow and genetic engineering. The training increased knowledge and understanding of Genetic Engineering and Genetically Modified Organisms, their implications for sustainable agriculture.
It is was our hope that at end of the dialogue it will enhance their capacity to appreciate and engage on Biosafety Regulations, Genetic Engineering and GMO issues. We also hoped that it will help participants to have an in-depth understanding of the issues and also provide them with an understanding of how flawed the Nigerian Biosafety Regulation is and systems promoting them. It is our aspiration that both the Media and the Lawyers will join us and take them to a more reliable and secure system.
Both events were very successful. The Media and Lawyers Training were well attended, robust, and engaging. The objectives of the events were met. The Chairman of the Benin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association attended from Benin City. We also had a member of parliament, who is a lawyer, in attendance. He pledged to get other like-minded legislators to take up the issues. We also had pro-GMO Media People at the Media Training event and one of them suddenly saw the ‘light’ and told us that he did not know that GMOs had side effects and was shocked to learn how very defective the Nigerian Biosafety Act is. He was quite sobered and promised in future to give a balanced view from both sides of the divide.
Later that evening we paid a courtesy call on the Minister of State for Environment and placed our three key demands before him: to nullify the permits given to Monsanto, to investigate the processes that led to the permit being issued, and to see to the drastic review or repeal of the Biosafety Act 2015. He acknowledged our concerns and pledged to treat all with seriousness.
Quite a number of TV and Radio Houses, Newspapers, both print and online had started reporting on the various activities and put the GMOs, Biosafety issues and the very wacky permits and defective Nigerian Biosafety Management Act in the public domain once again.
Find the links to media reports below:
- Group seeks to nullify permits on genetically modified maize, cotton https://guardian.ng/news/group-seeks-to-nullify-permits-on-genetically-modified-maize-cotton/
- GMOs: Why we seek protection of food, environment, by activists
- Biosafety is No Gamble: http://metrodailyng.com/biosafety-no-gamble/
- GMOs: Biosafety is no gamble http://www.environewsnigeria.com/gmos-biosafety-no gamble/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dangote_gates_why_we_re_hopeful_about_improving_health_in_africa&utm_term=2017-04-26
- Genetically Modified Food: FG Urged to Repeal Biosafety Law https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2017/
- Anti-GMO group insists GMO is unsafe http://thenationonlineng.net/anti-gmo-group-insists-gmo-unsafe/
- HOMEF Trains Journalists, Lawyers On Promoting Biosafety In Nigeria http://themetrolawyer.com/2017/04/25/homef-trains-journalists-lawyers-promoting-biosafety-nigeria/
- HOMEF advocates food sovereignty http://www.authorityngr.com/2017/04/HOMEF-advocates-food-sovereignty/
- Link to SilverBird broadcast on the Media meeting and interview with Nnimmo Bassey https://youtu.be/1fOxrFN5c_s
Also find some photos from the events as posted on our Flickr pages:
Mariann Bassey (AFSA Chairperson)
Friends of the Earth Nigeria