Some stakeholders in the agricultural sector, have called on the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), to educate consumers on Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs), to enable them make informed choices on foods.
The stakeholders, who spoke at a dialogue on GMO foods on Tuesday, in Abuja, also called for labeling of foods that contained GMOs.
Mr Babatunde Irukera, Director General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), said there was need to deepen dialogue on the GMO controversy, to get a clearer picture of its benefits or otherwise.
According to Irukera, consumers should have absolute information about the choices they make while purchasing either genetically modified or organic foods.
“Our position is pretty simple; that we are looking for the safest possible products for consumers.
“I think there is a disputed science with respect to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and so we think this is an opportunity to deepen the dialogue and x-ray the controversy so that we can get clearer sense of it.
“At the minimum, we take the position that there should be disclosure, and consumers should have absolute information about the choices they are making.
“When there is a choice between something that is genetically modified and something that is organic, the consumers can make that choice themselves.
“But that should be an informed choice, they should recognise what is organic and what is Genetically Modified (GM),’’ he said.
Chenemi Faith, the Head, Barns Connect and Co-convener of the Dialogue, said her organisation had been monitoring the debate around GMO technology and was making efforts to collect evidences and perceptions of the technology.
“Over the years, Barns Connect has followed research, news and debates around Genetically Modified Organisms at both international and local levels. We are aware and are making efforts to collect evidences and perceptions on it.
“As an organisation, we know the controversy on GMO in Nigeria.
“We should consider the realities of our country; from our porous borders to dwindling revenues, inadequate and poor human and social infrastructure to drive high-level research and training on these issues and the pressure from rising poverty and corruption.
“Our thinking, action and recommendation must take cognisance of these realities, else it becomes impossible to make headway with good legitimate support,’’ Faith said.
She noted, however, that in spite of the fact that the technology had benefits and shortfalls, Nigerian consumers deserved to know what they were eating.
She called for proper labeling of GM products after production.
“The facts are undeniable; GM technology has its benefits as well as shortfalls, and to confirm its threats or associated risks, enormous resources need to be channeled towards risk assessments and increased public awareness.
“We believe we can achieve greater benefits when we find a middle ground that best positions Nigerians to achieve only the best from both GM-science and the safety of all citizens.
“Every Nigerian consumer deserves to know what they are eating. They have the right to choose whether they want to eat GM or organic food, no matter the cost.
“The only way to ensure that is for strict labeling laws to be enforced on food products, and this should go beyond the four per cent limit set by existing law.
“We believe our biotechnology and Bio-safety agency have the interest of the people at heart, therefore we urge our agencies to be more transparent and open to Nigerians in the researches and scientific methods they are adopting.,’’ Faith added.
Edited & Vetted By: Oluyinka Fadare/Nyisom Fiyigon Dore
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