OrderPaperToday – Members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday disagreed over the propriety of the importation of genetically modified maize into the country.
The House however, resolved to probe the maize importer, Olams as well as relevant agencies of government for allowing the produce to come into the country allegedly without due clearance.
These followed a motion by Kingsley Onwubuariri (PDP, Imo) and Munir Babba Dan Agundi (APC, Kano) which called for investigation into the importation of genetically modified maize.
Leading the debate, Onwubuari noted that the agricultural revolution of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is geared towards ensuring sufficiency in food production and Nigerians have heeded the call and have gone back to the farms, the result of which was “an impressive harvest in maize which forced the price down.”
Referring to recent media reports on maize importation, he called on the federal government to probe the Nigeria Customs Service and other agencies at the seaport over an alleged importation of seven ship-loads of maize by Olam Group.
According to him, “recent information by scientists and researchers, more than half of the countries of the European Union, including Germany, France, Scotland, Italy, Austria, Greece, Poland and Belgium have either completely banned or placed severe restrictions on consumption of genetically modified products in their respective countries,” he expressed alarm that Olam imported the maize partly to feed its newly built feed mill factory in Kaduna rather than patronizing local farmers.”
He further drew attention of the House to the grave danger to the health of the citizens given the shipment of 70,000 tons of GMO maize into the country “without the knowledge and clearance of the National Biosafety Management Agency, a development that could stifle the efforts of local farmers and aggravate the nation’s capital flight situation.”
The lawmaker submitted that since the question of the safety and long term effects of genetically modified products have not been resolved in Nigeria, “the importation of genetically modified maize could expose our citizens to future health hazards, the magnitude of which nobody is in a position today to foretell or disprove with certainty.”
Opposing the motion however, Muhammed Mongunu (APC, Borno), informed the House that maize is not one of the products banned by government.
He however cautioned that the impact of such importation could adversely affect the ability of farmers to compete against cheaper imported maize and said the health risks attached to the consumption of the products raises concerns.
In a much more vehement opposition to the motion, Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) raised three different points: alleged lack of scientific evidence to the effect of GMOs on health; that maize is not one of the banned items; and doubts on the capacity of local farmers to meet demand.
He said: “Maize is not on the banned list, we represent not just farmers; we also represent people that desire cheap food items like corn. Today people are giving birth to triplets through IVF, are we going to classify those babies as not being babies?”
However, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) faulted Ossai’s position and argued that the motion is calling for verification of some of the claims as it is only through thorough investigation that clarifications could be gotten.
Usman Sheu (APC, Kano) in his remark faulted the federal government on the waiver given to Olams and revealed that the federal government recently paid Olam N50 billion for importation of seedling which he said should be investigated.
After a prolonged back and forth debate, members resolved that the House Committees on Agricultural Production and Services; and Customs and Excise should investigate the circumstances that led to the importation of the genetically modified maize without clearance from the National Biosafety Management Agency and recommend appropriate measures to protect the nation from importation of such products in future.
The committees are to report back within eight (8) weeks for further legislative action.