• As UNN Hosts First Biotech Meet
NOTWITHSTANDING a statement credited to Bill Gates, the United States’ multi-billionaire and international donor, the Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOEN) Saturday asked the Federal Government to review the Bio-safety bill, as it lacked elements that would protect food production in the country.
Bill Gates was quoted as saying that the bill “in the parliament had some good stuff” but “didn’t get passed.”
This comes as the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) hosts the world of science tomorrow for the first meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board of the UNESCO International Centre for Biotechnology (Category II) in Africa. The conference will hold for five days .
The International Centre for Biotechnology at the University of Nigeria is the first UNESCO Category II Biotechnology facility in Africa.
Nigeria and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation signed the final agreement on the establishment of the Centre on October 16, 2012. Minister of Education Prof Ruqqayatu Ahmed Rufai signed on behalf of Nigeria while UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova signed for the United Nations body.
“Gates, while responding to The Guardian’s inquiry during a press conference in New York, at the weekend, said: “There is a bill in the parliament about health stuff that had some good things in it but some part was controversial and it didn’t get passed.”
Yet, the ERA/FOEN warned against indiscriminate importation of genetically modified organisms from Europe and others parts of the world, saying that depending on imported food would only increase the level of unemployment in the country.
The environmentalists said the importation trend if not checked could lead to over 70 percent of unemployment and increase the menace of cancer and other related ailments.
A director of the group, Godwin Ojo, gave the advice yesterday in Benin City at a workshop tagged, “GMOs: Enforcing a just Biosafety path in Nigeria. ”
Ojo said hunger has become a political tool for manipulating people and nations, a situation, which, according to him, has devastating impacts on the poor, especially in Nigeria.
A comminque, signed by representatives of 20 environment interest groups across the state, said biosafety bill “does not mention the issue of liability and redress; omits an important step in the development of GM crops from regulation; does not contain meaningful provisions ensuring effective public participation; does not take into account the precautionary principle; and contains inconsistent language to an extent not acceptable…”
The communiqué which urged the Federal Government “to put in place mechanism to monitor commercial importation of food to ensure that they are not contaminated by GMOs. Since the negative impact of GMO products outweighs the perceived benefits, the use of GMO products should be discouraged in Nigeria,” the statement insisted.
Meanwhile, the UNN Vice Chancellor, Prof Bartholomew Ndubuisi Okolo, said the meeting of the Scientific Board is primarily to “develop operational model for start-up of the Centre.” He added, “Heads of Biotech Centres across the world will attend the meeting and seminar. They will avail UNN of their experiences in running similar centres across the world .