The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and a coalition of farmers have denounced the recent approval for release of Bt cowpea (beans) for cultivation and demanded a rejection of the application for field trials of a cassava clone.
A press statement released and signed by HOMEF Director, Nnimmo Bassey, stated that “the protein produced by this transgene has toxic effects on human liver cells and induces alterations in immune systems of laboratory animals.”
It added that the release of this genetically-modified beans will contaminate indigenous varieties, place them at risk and expose farmers and people to avoidable risks.
They made reference to a study of pollinator characteristics of the natural West African wild cowpea populations, which reveals that the Bt-gene will move from the genetically-modified lines to non-modified lines of both cultivated and wild relatives, resulting to other plants gaining the resistance trait that will cause an alteration in ecological balance and present adverse effects.
“It is worth nothing that this cowpea containing the transgene Cry1Ab, has not been approved for commercial use anywhere else in the world. Use of this Bt-gene was discontinued in South Africa where the cultivation of maize modified with the gene, led to enormous pest resistance and infestation. Current research has revealed that protein produced by this transgene has toxic effects on human liver cells and induces alterations in immune systems of laboratory animals,” the statement stated.
The coalition added that the projection that this GM beans will increase yield by 20 percent above current levels is a paltry reason for exposing the nation to risks as the challenges of agriculture are complex and cannot be solved by one genetic engineering silver bullet.
According to Bassey, “it is clearly impossible to label genetically-engineered beans and its products in Nigeria. Our socio-cultural setting makes it impossible to give Nigerians the right of choice through labelling of GMOs. This is one reason why the rush into GMO approvals is extremely perplexing. Where is the push coming from and why this reckless rush?
“Within just a couple of years of Nigeria having a GMO-regulatory agency, all we see are permits and propaganda, while the task of protecting the Nigerian people and our environment is being forgotten due to the blatant incestuous relationship with developers, promoters and merchants of these risky technologies.”