NIGERIA – The COVID-19 pandemic provides Nigeria with a good opportunity to work towards protecting its farming and food systems from being destroyed by agricultural genetic engineering promoters.
Nnimmo Bassey, an environmental expert and nature advocate made the assertion at an online dialogue which x-rayed Nigeria’s Food and Farming Systems during and post COVID-19 Era.
The advocate says his conclusions on Nigeria’s food systems follows the advent of the coronavirus pandemic currently wreaking havoc across the world.
He said the negative impact of COVID-19 on the health of many Nigerian patients could have been less if their immune system was not already compromised, he, however, says an immune system can only be boosted when individuals connect with nature, eat natural foods devoid of chemicals and shore up resistance to diseases.
‘‘COVID-19 is an opportunistic disease that takes advantage of a compromised system and eating unwholesome foods grown with chemicals undermines the immune system leaving people vulnerable to diseases like coronavirus’’
The advocate who lamented the advent of industrial agriculture, says the pursuit of profit has eaten away the world’s natural habitat displacing both human and animal species.
‘‘Those animals are natural host to pathogens and these pathogens are harmful to humans and if we don’t stop interfering with biodiversity and with nature we will continue to have pandemics’’
‘‘Industrial Agriculture causes 80% of the deforestation in the world, promotes land grabs, displaces communities and family farmers, what we think is producing food for us is actually displacing people destroying livelihoods and causing problems in the world’’.
He said those who promote Genetically Modified Organisms undermine the need to safeguard the health of the nation because in the context of Nigeria ‘‘GMOs are not labelled and Nigerians don’t have a choice in what they eat or buy from the market’’
‘When public officers saddled with defending our biosafety refuse to see the interconnectedness between the social, economic and environmental elements of agriculture and foods then our food systems will continue to suffer’’
The environmental advocate submitted that to meet Nigeria’s food needs, maintain a healthy population, and reduce hunger, then people must go back to nature, grow crops in a sustainable manner and jettison destructive chemicals used in industrial agriculture.
An agroecologist, Million Belay of AFSA warned that Africa must make an evidence-based and coherent case for agroecology as the sustainable long-term solution for farming in the region.
According to him, agroecology increases productivity, improves health and nutrition, creates economic opportunity, ensures soil protection, increases self-reliance and addresses the much needed Sustainable Development Goals.
Meanwhile, a food expert, Jackie Ikeotuonye, in her presentation explained that closed borders and enforced lockdowns have unintentionally, reduced carbon footprints and shortened supply chains.
She explained that sustainable approaches to food production and consumption have inadvertently become the default option as COVID-19 rage.