This is the final part of this article. In the second edition, the focus was on the benefits of genetic modification. In this final part, the risks and benefits of GMOs are examined.
By Ebele Orakpo
Possible potential damages
NBMA chief Ebegba continued: “The potential potential harm that GMOs can cause include environmental, health and socio-economic concerns. The risk assessment that is being carried out is to ensure that GMOs do not have the ability to become super organisms that will start to affect other organisms.
“We make sure it doesn’t get so dominant that it becomes invasive and destroys other organisms. We also make sure that if it is genetically modified to be resistant to a particular pest, that pest must be the only one it is resistant to; it should not affect other insects.
“So we look at it from a human angle; it should not cause health risks. It should not develop any toxins that affect human and animal health. Humans and animals should not become allergic to it or have negative reactions in the body such as itching, feeling of strangeness, etc. Therefore, toxicity and allergenicity should be avoided. We also look at socioeconomic concerns.
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“The purpose of genetic modification is profit; the benefit should not be less than the initial benefit of the existing organism. For example, if it is a genetically modified crop such as corn or rice, you need to make sure that the price is not exorbitant.
“You also have to make sure that it can generate economic value for the nation. It should not affect Nigerian business partners by reducing sponsorship.
We also look at it from the social concern; it must not contradict our cultural values. For example, you can’t take a gene from what people don’t eat and put it into something they eat.
“For example, when you have Muslims who don’t eat pork and you take a gene from a pig and put it into a goat that everyone eats, people will say that it is against their culture / religion. We make sure we have enough knowledge to be able to analyze all genetically modified organisms, ”said the head of the NBMA.
Political / commercial backgrounds and propaganda
“There have been many concerns about GMOs. There is an ongoing trade war. It has many political and commercial overtones. There are institutions and agencies that promote GMOs, but our work at the NBMA is regular. We are supposed to be an impartial referee; Therefore, whether it is a government, a company or an individual, we make sure that they follow our laws and if our laws are broken, we take to court whoever violates our law in regards to the NBMA Act of 2015.
“There is a penalty of five years in prison or a fine of N2.5m or both, at the discretion of the judge. People think that we are promoting GMO technology because we grant permits. If we are not sure about the safety, we will not grant the permit because the interest of Nigeria, the environment and the health of the people are of the utmost importance.
“We have a GMO detection laboratory where we can analyze any GMO to find out if it contains materials that we do not want and also to confirm whether an organism is genetically modified or not. We have the capacity and well-trained staff to ensure that this sector is properly regulated, ”said Ebegba.
“Who exactly is behind all this anti-GMO propaganda? Why your propaganda against GMOs in the food area? Some people are trying to protect their business because their products have no relevance to the health sector, so whether insulin is administered or not, it does not affect their business, so it does not bother them. The media should start investigating and investigating what is really happening, “said Ogbadu.
Ethical issues: “Yes, there are ethical issues but you have to weigh the options. Wisdom empowers you to do that. That’s where people who are trying to put checks and balances come in. Yes, that’s fine, but let’s not rush too much. Yes, the whole concept is fine, but we will talk about unforeseen consequences. You’re doing something, everything looks good and solves problems, but then 10, 20 years later, you see the other side.
“It was not their intention, so people now say that this is what we did 50 years ago that has resulted in this. For example, a good health system is helping us to live longer, we have more children, but now the challenge is increasing the population. The increase in population comes with problems of housing, space and crime. We want to live longer, but now, increasing populations are competing for small resources and all these other evils of society are emerging, ”said Egwari of Covenant University.
GMOs are good but …: “Yes, GMOs are good, but if they are not regulated, they can be disastrous. You can’t say “oh it’s good, so let’s embrace it wholeheartedly or” oh, it’s completely bad, so let’s not look in that direction.
“If you say no to GMOs and GMO foods, if you are not involved in the practice, are you sure of the source you are eating from? Are you sure about the processed foods you buy in supermarkets? You say they are tagged, what if they are not tagged? In many countries anything goes. It can only regulate what it produces; a hungry man has no voice, ”Egwari said.
For everything in life, there are pros and cons, so despite proponents touting the advantages of GMOs, some experts still believe there are some cons.
Meludu said: “The problem for the farmer is that every time he needs the seed, he goes back to the source. I went to the Republic of Benin and bought a nice papaya, the tree was very short and had about 20 heavy fruits.
“I sowed the seeds and managed to get very few but not the same size again and in the third year, if you sow again, you will not get anything. So they require you to go back to them and pay for the seeds again. Usually when you buy something and you sow, you harvest and save the seeds for the next planting season, but that’s not the case here. “
According to Meludu, Professor Frank Ogbo said that despite improving the shelf life of products, farmers have to go back to the source to buy seeds all the time because they cannot replant the seeds.
“The natural seeds that we can replant have been removed naturally due to a very low yield. For example, white corn is almost extinct; what we have now is what farmers call Abiola, the improved variety and when replanting it does not do well.
“Since it’s business, they don’t want the germ to be good enough to get into a new plant. Nigeria has not approved the use of GM foods, but our problem is that we are beggars. We beg for grains and tubers everywhere, so we don’t know what we are getting, we cannot attest that we are not eating genetically modified foods. “
Advice: Egwari believes that we must embrace change. “We have to see how we can get into it and be active players in any evolving concept so that we don’t sit around and argue and do nothing and one day we find that we are already consumed by it.
“All in all, it is good but it has its own shortcomings and the consequences may not be immediate but, again, they are part of the evolution of man; Whether it’s going to produce a superhuman or a weak human I can’t say, but all I can get is that in a lot of these emerging technologies we use germplasm and the way nature came about. it was through the seed.
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“The life of the flesh is in the blood and the life of the fruit is in the seed, so it is seeds that give birth, but now, you are taking any component of the fruit to produce new life.
Supporting the environment
“They produce new life but they don’t last. You can use it to produce a super great life, but again, after a few generations, they are reversed; they become more susceptible. It’s like someone who trains to build muscle; It reaches a stage where you can no longer train to maintain that muscle due to age or whatever and it starts to shrink.
“You look at the man and he looks so small and weak because now, he had built to the point where, when he returned, the system is no longer able to withstand the environment in which he had tried to live.
“People will keep talking about GMOs, but it’s not just good to talk about it, let’s do something about it. Nigeria must take a stand. If you want to do OGM, do OGM; invest because the truth is that the time will come when everyone will consume GMO foods and drugs, so if you are not a gamer, you will be stuck on the web, “Egwari said, adding:” Biotech is simply saying to modify your environment for a better life; use technology to provide us with a better standard of living. “
Now that I think about it, life on earth is survival of the fittest. Living things are constantly modified to survive in the changing environment. For example, the troublesome little rat known as the Belgium rat (expats in their own right, if you ask me) has adapted so much to life in the average Nigerian home, where they are constantly harassed and killed. Their lightning speed makes it very difficult to catch and kill them.
Not only that, his keen sense of smell and intelligence! Yes, anyone who has had the misfortune to be visited by these types of rats can attest to this: they are usually trapped with fish or roast meat. The first day, the trap may catch two or three of them and the next day, it may catch one or none because the others have seen what happened to their siblings who went to eat and never came back.
Later, the use of chewing gum became fashionable. It would work in the first few days and the rats will quickly learn how to get around it. As the Eneke bird said in Chinua Achebe Things fall apart, learned to fly without landing when men learned to shoot without fail. Or is it the malaria parasite that has sworn that no weapon made against it will prosper? It has been genetically modified in such a way that it has become resistant to many antimalarials.
We are now hearing about Covid-19 mutant strains from the UK and South Africa that may not be susceptible to available vaccines. All this in his bid to survive.
It’s like saying “modify or die.”