A small study conducted seven years ago showed that a majority of Nigerian scientists had a low awareness about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their harmful effects. But today, with the help of the Internet and the explosion of social media in Nigeria, people are even more aware.
And with this awareness comes resentment and resistance.
By becoming educated about genetically modified plants, opponents have pointed out their damage to biodiversity. Native plants have become sparse compared to the genetically modified plants that seem to grow with ease.
Opponents have also raised the question over whether consuming genetically modified plants has negative health consequences.
Although Nigerian scientists and GMO supporters reassure that genetically modified food is safe for the consumer, the critics counter that developed countries do not consider GMOs to be safe. By taking into account that developed countries have even stronger risk assessment and regulatory systems, there are still many critics in Nigeria.
GMOs have been coined “the Monsanto Poison” in Nigeria because of the Monsanto Company’s role in Agent Orange. This herbicide was used during the Vietnam War by the United States and has had lasting effects on the health of veterans. Agent Orange was strategically used to deplete vegetation cover and as a way to force starvation on the population. This has caused Nigerians to have a generally negative view of GMOs.
However, there are still some scientists and proponents in Nigeria that would like to expand the use of genetically modified plants. By being able to modify the plants, scientists are able to better understand their biology and physiology.
Genetic engineering has also improved crops such as cotton, soybeans, tomatoes, coffee and bananas. Plants can also be modified to have a higher protein content and higher oil yield. This could all improve the nutrition of those that consume them.
Scientists in support of GMOs in Nigeria also note that GMO technology could be a solution to the challenges that face global food production. Climate change, population growth and competition for land have all affected how food is produced and its quantity.
The debate over the safety of genetically modified organisms has been developing for over 40 years. However, if this technology can be scientifically proven to be safe for consumers, GMOs could feed the world’s hungry. The approval of GMOs in Nigeria would not only be a huge success for science, but also for those in need of food.
GMOs could be the key in solving food shortages, but only time will tell if GMOs are deemed safe for consumers.
– Kerri Szulak