Agroecology experts have again warned that the approved genetically modified beans, also known as BT Cowpea, stand the risk of contaminating indigenous beans varieties and exposing small scale farmers and others to avoidable risks.
The experts warned that BT Cowpea, which contains the transgene ‘Cry1Ab’, has not been approved anywhere else in the world and was discontinued in South Africa where the gene led to enormous pest infestation when used in maize cultivation.
Raising the alarm at a press conference organised by the Home of Mother Earth Foundation in Abuja, Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, the Coordinator Food Sovereignty Program said the commercialization of BT Cowpea in Nigeria portends danger for indigenous crop varieties.
She said the release of Genetically Modified, GM varieties, will utterly contaminate natural varieties through cross-pollination, posing a threat to their preservation.
”The loss of varieties means that rather than promote food security, Nigeria and indeed Africa is stepping into an era of uncertainty, gross unpredictability and food supply instability. We must also consider the fact that the insecticidal beans can also kill non-target organisms and lead to the development of superbugs.
”Recent studies showed that because of the pollinator characteristics of the natural West African wild cowpea populations, BT-gene will move from the genetically modified lines to non-modified lines of both cultivated and wild relatives, resulting in other plants gaining the resistance trait that will cause an alteration in ecological balance and present adverse effects,” she explained.
She also called attention to the environmental and socio-economic impacts of BT cowpea, saying the results are often unpredictable, with severe implications for biodiversity, ecosystems, and food security.
Bassey, however, said the only solution to avoiding the many dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms is a total ban and respect for small-scale farmers and food producers who produce indigenous crops using traditional and safe methods.
She called on the federal government to prioritise Agroecology, insisting that it was the only viable solution to Climate Change and Climate crisis.
”In a nutshell Respect Food Sovereignty! This is the “right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems,” she stated.
Cowpea, also known as beans, is an indigenous staple, a major source of protein for Nigerians and an important source of income for local farmers in the country.