Thirty years ago in Nigeria, cancer was considered to be a white man’s disease, today we have lost a good number to cancer and the number of cases is growing. Fifteen years ago, I knew nothing about autism. Today the number of children born with autism is on the increase. Today paediatricians in Nigeria are alarmed at the number of children that are living with hypertension, obesity, cancer. All these are no accident. For every effect there is a cause. And so rather than blame the “enemies in the village,” I chose to be more logical and sensible. Enter GMO.
Have you ever heard of GMO? GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. GMO is an organism that has its DNA altered through genetic engineering. The technology allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism to another. This also happens between non-related species. Marc Lallanilla gives an instance of a gene from a spider that helps the arachnid to produce silk being inserted into the DNA of an ordinary goat. “That may sound far-fetched, but that exact process was used to breed goats that produce silk proteins in their goat milk. The milk is then harvested and the silk protein is isolated to make a light weight, ultra-strong silk with a wide range of industrial and medical uses.”1 He also mentions that geneticists have bred GMO pigs that glow in the dark by inserting into their DNA a gene for bioluminescence from a jellyfish.
The technology is being applied to agricultural crops and hence we have GM foods which are foods that have had foreign genes – genes from other plants or animals – inserted into their genetic codes. The potential benefits according to National Library of Medicine (NLM) are foods that are tastier, more nutritious and resistant to diseases and droughts. Also potential risks according to NLM includes that the genetic alterations can cause harm and that modified organisms could be inbred with natural organisms, leading to the possible extinction of the original organism.
When a technology does what is contrary to nature, there is a negative consequence. The GM foods that are already being consumed in United States and in Nigeria are having devastating health consequences but unlike the United States, Nigeria does not have a standard health care system to combat the ugly effects of GM foods.
GMO technology is mostly applied in large-scale agriculture. Most of the soy, cotton, corn products in the United States have been genetically engineered. These products are already being imported into Nigeria. You cannot be sure that the agbado you bought from the road side seller and consumed is not a GM food. In the United states, there is a strong push to have GMO products labeled so that consumers are aware before buying them. Here in Nigeria, how do we make the woman who is selling GM corn, presently without a clue as to what GMO is, label it? Baby formulas are not left out and it is true that that cereal you had with milk in the morning as your breakfast is probably a GMO product. We have been consuming them for years and God help us, our health is being compromised!
Mosanto is the name of the corporation that wants to take over and monopolize world food production with her GMO technology. A study has been made which examined the possible effects of a GMO maize diet treated with Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide. Monsanto claims that her Roundup Herbicide makes crops resistant to pests but the chronic toxicity study which examined the health impacts on rats of eating GM maize alongside Monsanto’s NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide found severe liver and kidney damage as well as hormonal disturbances in rats fed with GM maize in conjunction with low levels of Roundup that were below those permitted in most drinking water across Europe. Results also showed high rates of large tumors and mortality in most treatment groups.
A research carried out in Canada successfully found the presence of pesticides (associated with GM foods) in maternal, fetal, and non-pregnant women’s blood.
Studies have linked GMOs to:
- Damaged intestinal wall
- Breast cancer
- Birth defects
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
More are still being found out. This is giving us an explanation for the rise in the above mentioned health issues we have today. To make matters worse, the impact of GMOs is not only on human health, it has a devastating impact on the environment and agriculture. Over 250,000 farmers in India who used GMO crops have committed suicide.
The story started when 90% of Indian farmers were forced to switch to Monsanto’s Bt crop hoping that Bt crops were pest resistant (so farmers did not have to buy Monsanto’s costly herbicide). However after a while, Bt cotton’s pests resistant quality started to fade away so farmers had to again buy and use Monsanto’s costly herbicide.
The high cost of GMO seeds, extensive use of herbicides and great reduction in crop value have often times left farmers bankrupt and as a result many farmers are falling into the endless cycle of debt, depression, hopelessness and despair and they have no choice but to ends their lives. The figures provided by NY University School of Law show that just in 2009 alone, 17,638 farmers committed suicide.
As a result of Monsanto’s costly GMO seeds, many families of farmers have lost their livelihood and lands and are left on their own to struggle with starvation and misery. 1.1 billion (which is 60% of Indian population) are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.
Monsanto is resposible for dominating the market by forcing farmers to buy their seeds and chemicals. Seeds that die every year, so farmers are forced to buy new seeds.
Monsanto’s domination is threatening sustainable organic agriculture and the livelihood of Indian farmers and health of all of us as consumers. Thanks to biotech companies, what was once a sustainable diverse way of agriculture is now replaced with unsustainable globalized agribusiness in the hands of few people consumed by greed and power. We as consumers cannot even choose to boycott GMOs since biotech companies like DuPont and Monsanto give millions of dollars to lobbyists to bribe politicians in order to aggressively pursue their anti-GMO labeling policies.2
After nineteen European countries including Austria, France, Germany, have banned genetically modified crops due to its devastating effects, Nigeria is now having an affair with GMO. The giant corporation, Monsanto, is on a march to enslave farmers and monopolize world agricultural production and she has found an open door into Nigeria. Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd. is with us. They have been allowed to initiate experimental farms to produce cotton and maize. The glyphosate infused maize grown in Nigeria threatens our health. In addition, when the wind carries pollen from such farms to another farm not having anything to do with GMO, the farm on which the pollen arrives is badly affected. But we cannot allow some few greedy and morally bankrupt individuals who have received financial inducement to enslave us with Monsanto’s scheme. In Africa, Burkina Faso took the lead on GMO crops. The country was producing Burkinabé cotton which was renowned for its high quality. It was grown without GMO. For whatever reason, they decided to abandon the home-grown approach and went after Monsanto’s GMO route. After six years of commercial production, they discovered that the quality of their cotton dropped and so did the world market price. They had inferior lint quality of Monsanto products. In addition to that, farmers were enslaved into buying expensive seeds and chemicals from Monsanto each year even though they had less income than what they used to have prior Monsanto invasion. Gold is the highest source of revenue for Burkina Faso followed by cotton. You can imagine how badly they were affected.
The GMO cotton that failed in Burkina Faso is what is being introduced into Nigeria. Nigeria should have no business whatsoever with GMO. Take a trip from Lagos to Kogi and you find on your left and right vast arable lands waiting to be cultivated. We have been growing our food organically and we should keep doing so. We may not have been able to meet our domestic food requirement but GMO is not the solution. It will only make matters worse. The challenge that faces us in the agricultural sector is that of an inefficient system which the Ministry of agriculture, relevant agencies, and stakeholders can address.
In Italy gardens are found in homes and some of us remember the crops our grandparents cultivated in the compound. On the long term, we may have to go back to that. But for now, we must say no to GMO and Monsanto. (If you want to know more about the history of Monsanto, click Monsanto.) We have to make our effort to avoid GMO products already in the market and go for those grown organically in farms.
I have put up this post so that the ignorant may at least be aware and also that those who are in the position to safe guard our health and environment should do what is right and noble rather than allowing money to be their master. Feel free to share this post. At the very least, your family and friends should be aware of what is going on.
Nigerians are already at war with GMO. Click here to find out more. It is all of us at war with Monsanto.
- Marc Lallanilla, GMOs: Facts About Genetically Modified Food, Livescience, http://www.livescience.com/40895-gmo-facts.html, Accessed July 25, 2016.
- Seattle Organic Restaurants, Indian Farmers are Committing Suicide because of Monsanto’s costly GMO Crops, http://www.seattleorganicrestaurants.com/vegan-whole-foods/indian-farmers-committing-suicide-monsanto-gm-crops/, Accessed July 25, 2016.