Farmers, farmers associations, representatives of Communities, government agencies, international agencies, business, civil society groups, faith based organisations and the media attended the Workshop on Stopping the False Nutritional Kite & Understanding the Convention on Biological Diversity organised by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and held at Protea Hotel Apo Apartments, Abuja, Nigeria on Tuesday 08 October 2013.. The workshop was convened by HOMEF to boost learning on nutrition through natural foods and to interrogate the claims/myths of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as the panacea for nutritional deficiencies in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Secondly, the workshop aimed to build knowledge of participants on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) process as a foundational tool for defending our environment.
Three papers were presented as follows:
a. Understanding the Convention on Biological Diversity by Rufus Ebegba
b. Nutrition from Natural Foods/Crops by Yemisi Olowookere
c. Unmasking the mythic Nutritional Kite by Nnimmo Bassey
These presentations were followed by robust interrogations and group deliberations.
The workshop observed that:
- The Convention on Biological Convention (CBD) is technical and not an easy convention to be understood by the average Nigerian farmer.
- Many conventions and treaties are entered into by the government without consultation with farmers and citizens
- Small scale farmers are the largest aggregate investors in agriculture in Nigeria and in the world
- Policies affecting farmers are developed without the consent and inputs from farmers
- There are unauthorised genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and foods in Nigeria
- Nigerians are not aware of the health and dietary risks of GMOs
- Nutrition is not manufactured in the laboratory and must not be used as a guise for introduction of GMOs into Nigeria
- Large scale land grabs is happening in Nigeria without consent of farmers and communities
- Poverty and poor dietary options lead to food insecurity and poor nutrition
- Over processed foods often presented in plastic packages are not helpful in the nutritional needs of the people
- Groups like the G8 promoting the so-called Alliance for Nutrition are working in the interest of multinational agribusiness with the objective of capturing the African market and dislocating agricultural policies
- There is an increasingly dependency on multinational agribusiness and supporting government agencies that do not portend good for Nigerians 13. African governments have been largely complacent about the covert activities of the biotechnology industry to undermine food sovereignty on the continent
- Food sovereignty is impaired by dependence on food imports and manipulation of crops
The workshop also noted the recent passage of policies on agricultural trade and GMOs by the Council of Ministers of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and saw this as a growing threat to African agriculture, demanding that the policies are not deeded and should be jettisoned.
The workshop resolved as follows:
- Government and civil society groups should embark on intensive education of grassroots farmers on the provisions of the CBD and related conventions, treaties and policies
- Initiatives to enhance indigenous agricultural and food preservation techniques should be developed
- The provisions of the CBD should be fully explained to farmers and citizens as a key tool for biodiversity protection
- Government should ensure that GMOs are not brought into Nigeria in the absence of a strict Biosafety Law and in line with the precautionary principle of the Cartagena Protocol
- There should be strict penalties for defaulters of the provisions of the CBD
- Nigerians should eat healthy organic foods that are culturally appropriate
- Policy makers to ensure that only safe products are allowed into Nigeria and ensure a strict implementation of the CBD.
- The current Nigerian Biosafety Bill pending signature of the President should be opened to farmers and the generality of the public for inputs. The Nigerian President should not assent to the National Biosafety Bill in its current form to give opportunity for citizens’ and critical stakeholders input in line with the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol which Nigeria is signatory to.
- There should be full transparency on the part of government and her agencies in the labelling and liabilities and redress in the Biosafety laws and in the promotion of practices that support food sovereignty
- Agro-ecological food production should be encouraged for biodiversity conservation
- Agriculture is all about our culture and is equally deeply political and must be treated with serious considerations in these spheres
The workshop supported the call by the African Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) calling for a reversal of the policies adopted by The Council of Ministers of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) on Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations, 2013 and the Policy Statements and Guidelines for commercial planting of GMOs, Trade in GMOs and Emergency Food aid with GMO content. The workshop agreed with AFSA’s position that “the COMESA Policy aggressively promotes the wholesale proliferation of GMOs on the African continent by way of commercial plantings, commodity imports and food aid and flouts international biosafety law.” It was noted that South and East Africa might be a starting point for the spread of these objectionable policies into other parts of Africa.
Nnimmo Bassey, the director of HOMEF signed the resolution.