GMO Foods:The new death trap in Nigeria – IROHIN ODUA

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GMO Foods:The new death trap in Nigeria

Prof. Qrisstuberg Amua

An invading wave of GM crops like TELA MAIZE, GM Cowpea and RR Soya is currently being forced on Nigerians with the promissory appeal of helping farmers to feed the nation. Food insecurity has been systematically orchestrated over the past one and a half decades through strategic insurgency in the North East and North West of Nigeria, Herders attacks and land grabbing on crop farmers in the North Central, banditry and kidnappings all over the food production centres in Nigeria, targeted killings and displacement of farmers from their ancestral farmlands in Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, the farming Tiv populations of southern Nasarawa Taraba states and many other farming communities in states like Ekiti, Ondo, Edo, Adamawa, Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, etc. Thus, security has been systematically projected to be at the forefront of the GMO ‘invasion’ and ‘war’ on Nigeria, Afrika and indeed the world; as GM crops are promoted to be engineered to “increase yields, resist herbicides, and become more resistant to environmental stressors, such as insect damage and disease”. This is the narrative of foreign transvandals penchant for invading and recolonizing supposed independent nations, through foreign biotech companies in direct collusion with some procured scientists of their target countries, and greedy government officials mostly in the regulatory agencies (either ignorant by default or procured to feign ignorance because of greed).
Historically, most crops so genetically engineered have not substantially and sustainably produced the so promoted improvements, rather they have only bettered the commercial goals of herbicides and pesticides companies turned biotech GMO patent holders, their BigPharma investors the strategic interests of their parent countries and the United Nations Organizations. One example of note was the golden rice, engineered in the 1990s to contain higher levels of beta-carotene to combat vitamin A deficiency. That crop never gained traction because it never performed to the promised expectation so promoted.
Another factor is the lack of safety testing by regulatory agencies, as well as reliance on data generated by the promoters and foreign merchants that will profit from approvals of their own GM products. These have necessitated experts and several patriotic national organisations like CEFSAR and HOMEF to mention a few, to call for a more comprehensive safety assessment to avail consumers the opportunity to make informed choices and decisions. It is publicly alleged that safety concerns and health claims data provided to Nigeria’s regulatory agencies by the biotech GMO patent holders are arguably insufficient to guarantee the safety of these GM crops, like TELA MAIZE, for human consumption.
Accordingly, some tests claimed to have been conducted by some of the biotech companies are controversial and geneticist have expressed concerns of no clear evidence that developers of GM crops have carried out the kind of molecular analyses (like proteomics and metabolomics) that could help establish whether they only got the change they wanted, with no unintended changes. As a result, there is no clear confirmation of these GMO crops being safe to eat.
“We must also bear in mind that the GM transformation process (plant tissue culture and plant cells transformation) will inevitably give rise to hundreds if not thousands of sites of unintended DNA damage (mutations). These wide scale mutations can change patterns of gene function and alter biochemistry and composition, with unknown downstream health consequences,” according to geneticist Michael Antonio.
Allergenicity is also an ongoing concern regarding the genetic modification of food. A study published in Nature in 1999 reported that bean plants were genetically modified to produce higher levels of the amino acids methionine and cysteine but were discarded because the expressed protein of the transgene was highly allergenic. Given the concern of food allergies, it may be prudent to apply the precautionary principle when modifying our food’s genetic makeup; says Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).

Another concern is in the claim of genetic modification to achieve nutrient fortification; the need for nutrient balance is documented for other common nutrients. For example, vitamin A plays a critical role in eyesight, but high levels of vitamin A can be toxic, leading to hair thinning, blurred vision, headaches, weakness, and bone pain, according to a 2022 article published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Likewise, iron is required for oxygen transport and DNA synthesis, however, too much iron can lead to tissue damage, according to a 2014 review in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. Many other nutrients may follow the same pattern of “moderate is good but too much can be bad.”
According to a 2022 article written by Ray Seidler, a former scientist for the US Environmental Protection Agency:
“When consumed in moderation, anti-inflammatory compounds like anthocyanins can have health benefits. But too much of a good thing may not be good. It has been demonstrated that over-consumption of anthocyanins (e.g. when taken as pill supplements) may cause kidney, liver, and thyroid hormone health effects. Anthocyanins are part of a group of phytocompounds called polyphenols, which may also limit or interfere with iron absorption.”
Antioxidant supplementation can also increase risk of cancer, according to a 2023 review in the scientific journal Antioxidants.
Antioxidants work, in part, by neutralizing reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals. These ROS are produced naturally during oxygen-based respiration in all living organisms.
ROS can harm molecules, including DNA, proteins, and cell membranes, contributing to the formation of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, metabolic derangements including diabetes, and aging, according to a 2023 study published in Archives of Toxicology.
However, ROS also play a crucial role in combatting disease and maintaining overall health. It is established that, certain immune cells generate ROS to eliminate invading bacteria, fungi, and yeasts, thereby reducing their harmful effects. Additionally, ROS act as signaling molecules, activating essential biochemical pathways and regulating gene expression. It is essential to strike a balance in producing enough ROS to regulate vital functions in the body without generating excessive amounts that lead to damage or disease; and this is expressed in the historical power of traditional breeding methods in addressing national and global nutritional needs and enhancing agricultural diversity with ecological conservation without recourse to genetic modification.

The broader implications of the GMO invasion manifests in the narratives that the first waves of GM crops were predominantly marketed with the goal of helping farmers feed the world, as captured in the mantra of global food insecurity. Food insecurity was orchestrated and thus food security becomes promoted to the forefront as crops are ‘engineered to increase yields, resist herbicides, and become more resistant to environmental stressors, such as insect damage and disease.’

Could the TELA MAIZE be a Trojan horse, boasting claims of improved traits for the enhancement of food security while trickling GM seeds into traditional farms to gain acceptance of GMOs among consumers? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, once GM seeds are planted in open field farms, seed drift becomes a concern; and also patent infringement. One major concern is adulteration due to pollen drift. Farmers may require to keep up to 600 metres of distance between varieties to maintain cultivar purity. For those who keep gardens and/or farm in urban or suburban environments, this kind of distance would be virtually impossible to guarantee. Then there would be sudden cases of varieties of cultivars in one garden or farm that wasn’t originally cultivated. And the way courts have ruled, if the cultivar patent owner finds any of the produce with adulterated DNA, the farmer can be liable for patent infringement. This is part of the impending mess that may be lurking in the dark, awaiting Nigerian and Afrikan farmers in the near future.

It is important to note that the foreign biotech companies and their Eugenicists Shareholders hold active and pending patents on the GMO crop plants with the promoted characteristic traits, as well as the crop plants made using those methods. If this is not threatening enough to be an assault on food sovereignty and strategic national security, then there is nothing else it can be.

Prof. Qrisstuberg Amua, MCSN, MNES, MANA; Director, Centre for Food Safety and Agricultural Research (CEFSAR) is a researcher in bioinorganic mechanochemistry and experimental medicine; a certified fellow of Bioresource Utilization and Ecological Conservation of the Hubei Vocational Training College of Bio-Technology, Wuhan, China.

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