Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

TIME TO WISE UP ON GMO FOODS

With the intensifying and raging tides issuing from special interest groups determined to ram down genetically-modified organism (GMO) foods down our throat by all means, and equally vociferous warning shrieks from Nigerians opposed to the moves, it’s amazing that many literate Nigerians still consider the matter mainly “academic” or an “activism” issue.  In reality, this is a development that WOULD have serious consequences for a great number of Nigerians.  And since these things are somewhat stochastic in nature, nobody could guarantee that a family member or kinsman, (if not even they themselves) would not end up as part of the unpleasant statistics!

Despite all the efforts in certain quarters to deliberately confuse and confound issues, thus throwing the average Nigerian off the subject-matter, the key issues involved are really very simple to grasp.  No background in molecular biology is needed to appreciate them.  They are basically issues of human health, of food sovereignty, and of preservation of our ecosystem.  None of these is rocket science, and I’ll explain presently.

But we must begin with the purported endorsement of GMO foods in Nigeria by the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS). When an august body like the NAS pronounces on any matter scientific, it simply cannot be waved aside as uninformed or unpatriotic. Not even when such a pronouncement, as it is in this case, appears to be a direct contradiction of clear pronouncements by other equally competent and revered entities.

As a Professor of Health Physics and Environment, I was particularly interested in the news items, and I promptly went to the website of the NAS to check out the expected official statement and the details of the study on which it was based, so one can follow the scientific methodologies and arguments.

However, there was absolutely nothing of the sort.  Very clearly, the NAS had neither conducted any study on the safety of GMO in foods, on their implications for food sovereignty, and impacts on the ecosystem in Nigeria; neither has the revered Academy issued any statement at all on these critical points.

Apparently, some pro-GMO interest groups had co-sponsored a “Stakeholder’s Roundtable” using the NAS as a cover, and thereafter saddled themselves with disseminating reports on purported outcomes of that meeting through the popular press.  There was no single written line authored by the NAS itself on the subject matter, as is the clear trend reflected on the Academy’s website when it is making official pronouncements on critical national issues (for instance via Reports, Press Releases, Policy Briefs, etc).  In this case however, apart from copious pictures (some of which revealed the Nigerian Agency on Biotechnology Development Agency, NABDA, as “co-hosts” of the event – a fact not mentioned in any write-up); the only mention of this earth-shaking news item on NAS website was an external link to a newspaper report.

If it is the wish of the NAS to make a pronouncement on a burning national issue, why wouldn’t there be an official statement?  Moreover, all the various media reports were obviously syndicated from one or two sources.  A clear case of the hands of Esau, but the voice of Jacob!  It wasn’t surprising therefore to see several of those reports maintain the same screaming headline as the outcome of the NAS Roundtable meeting, but have the body of their reports reflecting different realities.

The news link on the NAS website was somewhat more coherent than other media reports, and we could safely surmise that it has the endorsement of the NAS to some extent. Yet looking at even that report, it is clear that all the headlines were based on personal positions advanced by three speakers. Eminent as these speakers were, their positions can nevertheless by no means be reported as the official position of the NAS.  And even then, the body of the report clearly shows that the speakers were largely offering reasonable counsel to government on the need to be careful and ensure that appropriate safeguards were in place ahead of any formal introduction of commercial GMO into Nigerian market.

Hence while the headline deceptively proclaims “Academy of Science says Nigeria ready for GMO products”, the first speaker mentioned in the report, Prof Oyebodun Longe is to be later quoted as admonishing that “even though adoption of GM technology in Africa may not have met expectations, African nations and Nigeria in particular, must for the sake of science, develop the scientific capacity to embrace GMO technology.”  Furthermore she counselled that: “Nigeria must equip the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) with the technical know-how to do its work in order to adopt the technology,” for instance, such that the Agency would be able “to check the inflow of GM foods from different entry points into the country and even imports of genetic materials for research purposes.”  Finally, she counselled that “government should rely on scientific research in order to set safety standards for GM foods,” emphasizing that requirements stipulated by the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol (which includes exhaustive locally-conducted risk-assessment) must be applied.

So it is clear that while the good lady was harping more on developing scientific capacity and processes to safeguard Nigeria from the inevitable and indeed ongoing INFLOW of GMOs into the country; the writer, either maliciously or ignorantly, suggests she is calling for Nigeria to begin to officially CULTIVATE GMO foods for the masses consumption.  There is a world of difference between the two!

The contributions of outgoing President of the NAS, Prof Oyewale Tomori, was even more correctly captured by the writer in the body of the inappropriately-headlined article.  The reporter wrote: “Earlier, the NAS President, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, urged government to create an enabling environment that would check that whatever GMO products came into the country were well verified.”  Again, it is clear that this patently sensible call to check GMO products being forced into the country through complicated trade agreements or outright smuggling is a far cry from an endorsement that the country should become the hub to start producing the products.

It was only the third speaker quoted, a Professor of Plant Breeding and Crop Biotechnology, from the University of Calabar who supposedly affirmed that “the country has a mass of trained scientists, enough manpower to go into the product.”  He also supposedly claimed that “A genetic modified product goes through rigorous testing before it is released for consumption” with the suggestion that this rigorous testing has been assuredly concluded.

If only these two statements on GMO foods were correct, then there would obviously be no problem endorsing Nigeria’s “going into the product”.  But the fact is that the statements can be easily falsified and shown to be inapplicable in Nigeria’s setting.

For instance, on the first issue of adequate capacity, a simple question to judge the Professor’s assertion could be asked with respect to the GMO-laced products which the National Biosafety Management Agency, NABMA, has told us are now common on the shelves at our big superstores, such as Shoprite. The question is this: were these products not to carry labels indicating their countries of origin or GMO-status, is there any Nigerian laboratory that would be able to make such confirmation?  We might also ask how many government-funded research centres are there in Nigeria engaging in inter-disciplinary studies on GMOs in Nigeria – independent of the foreign pro-GMOs influences?

The statement on “rigorous testing” and subsequent guaranty of safety is not only manifestly false, it is also quite unfortunate.   And I will dwell more on this.  It is unfortunate if an eminent scientist in the country, eminent enough to speak on the platform of the NAS, would hinge his recommendation that a highly controversial product like GMOs is safe for Nigeria, solely on the premise that some other scientists in some other countries must somehow have done the needful before they would have endorsed the release of the product in their own countries.  Why bother any longer duplicating such efforts in Nigeria!

As a matter of fact, this is the major point endlessly rehashed in the numerous media reports on the much-hyped “NAS Stakeholders’ Roundtable”.  One common line in the syndicated news item was: “the academy’s stance was informed by existing evidence from the industrialised countries, which have carefully followed laid-down principles for such activities. ”

In fact the same Professor of Plant Breeding from the University of Calabar was categorically quoted as affirming: “Before these products are sent into the market, lots of trials and investigations are done by so many agencies, such as the Academy of Sciences Worldwide, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), World Health Organisation (WHO), to monitor and make sure they are safe for human consumption and they have recommended.”

In perhaps the original source article reporting the so-called NAS endorsement, Steven Cerier, described as an “international economist” involved in the Genetic Literacy Project  simply wrote: “The Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) declared this week that genetically-modified foods are safe for consumption. The NAS, citing overwhelming evidence from developed countries and thousands of studies, said the country was ready for the products and that they were safe for production and beneficial to the nation.”  Mr Cerier went further to specifically mention the US National Academy of Sciences and The International Society of African Scientists as respectable authorities whose pronouncements the NAS is supposedly latching on to goad us all into accepting that GMO foods have been scientifically demonstrated as good for us in Nigeria.

Unfortunately for Mr Cerier and all those following his cue in their media reportage, scientific issues are not settled by mere dogmatic pronouncements by individuals or authorities no matter how revered or eminent.  As espoused by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the scientific method requires clearly defined, repeatable protocols being used to obtain basic data from which appropriate conclusions could be carefully drawn.  None of these is evident here.  Indeed the supposed “citing of overwhelming evidence” by the NAS, confirming safety and benefits of producing GMOs in Nigeria, were apparently observed by Mr Cerier alone.  As Basketmouth would drunkenly say, “….perhaps in his mind!”

The simple question is: what stops the National Biosafety Management Agency from conducting her own studies on the safety of GMO foods, and presenting those results rather than endlessly arrange “stakeholders’” talkshops trying to elicit dogmatic pronouncements on the issue?

It is doubly tragic that even those references by Mr Cerier to “thousands of studies” by relevant bodies in advanced countries were inaccurate.  Yes, there have been dozens of studies in several developed countries on the safety of GMOs, and those studies were the very reason GMOs have been banned in those countries.  At least 19 countries in Europe, including technology giants like Germany, France, Italy, Austria are convinced GMOs have no place in foods and food products.  Indeed a country like Russia (not exactly a technological Lilliput) is so averse to GMOs that it has laws equating people who would bring in GMOs into the country with terrorists bringing biological weapons of mass destruction!

Without any doubt, the hotbed for GMO cultivation is the United States.  But it is on record that in that country the required safety tests have NOT been conducted by official government departments.  Rather the very corporations developing the products were required to conduct the studies and show proof to government that their products are safe. This is hardly reasonable, especially when those results contradict results obtained by independent local authorities in other no less technologically-endowed countries.  Indeed, it is not only on records that the main corporation in question, Monsanto, has a history of false safety claims on her products (which included the deadly Agent Orange, glyphosate PCBs, aspartarme, etc) all vehemently declared safe by the corporation until later evidences proved otherwise.  Even more interesting is the fact that organizations such as Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth, have repeatedly revealed that Monsanto does NOT allow GMO foods to be served in her own staff canteens!

So what’s the big deal about verifying the toxicity or wholesomeness of a food product?  Shorn of scientific terminologies and details, this is a basic procedure that has been conducted all across cultures and civilization since time immemorial: whenever the integrity of the food served in the plate becomes questionable, feed part of it to some relevant experimental animal and watch the outcome!

The least the NAS, or better still our government agencies, should have done to assure safety of GMOs as food, is to simply commission a study, feeding appropriate doses of the product under discussion to experimental mice/rats under controlled conditions for some 18 months,  and observe the outcomes!  Obviously the biological endpoints to check for here would not just be the acute signs of toxicity, which appear almost immediately the product is consumed.  (If such “fall and die” response existed, obviously there would have been no need for this debate in the first place).  The health issues of interest here are those chronic endpoints including reproductive toxicity (which are not manifested until the subject involved desires to have babies); developmental toxicity and genotoxicity (which only manifest in the subject’s offsprings either whilst still in the womb or much later in life); and some other endpoints which manifest only after a long period of latency, such as cancers or organ damage.  No one can summarily rule any of these out until appropriate studies have been conducted to check them out.

All the countries and authorities that have soundly rejected GM foods on health ground do so because they fed the GM foods to rats and mice and pigs, and observed the outcomes.  According to one report summarizing the incontrovertible outcomes published in several peer-reviewed scientific journals: “Scientific researchers found that 70 percent of female rats and 50 percent of male rats died prematurely when fed GMOs, almost all of them victims of cancer. In all, GMOs have been linked to 22 diseases. According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, ‘animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen, and gastrointestinal system’.”  These are exactly the basic reasons those countries have locked the door against GM foods.  Not “geo-politics” or “hatred of science,” as Nigerian pro-GMO advocates constantly insinuate.

When an Agency like NABDA for instance continually drums it into our ears that they have been carrying out detailed studies over many years  on GM foods, they talk of field studies to see how the plants grow, thrive etc.  Not health studies, which is the bottom-line here.  The people whose comments are germane here are medical and health practitioners, not botanists, plant breeders, geneticists, etc whose comments currently flood the media as expert pronouncements on desirability of GMOs in our country.

In the documentary Genetic Roulette, several medical practitioners in North America describe the gory sights and diseases they come across in their patients who subsist largely on GMO foods.  These are health outcomes very similar to those seen in laboratory animals that had been chronically fed GMO foods as described above.  And to make the matters even more conclusive (and somewhat cheering), they also describe how in several cases, those adverse health outcomes are reversed when the patients are put off GMO foods.  These are facts which cannot be wished away by dogmas or some authoritative fiat. The documentary is free to download on the internet.

It is instructive to note that, perhaps the toughest part of conducting a safety test on GM foods is getting the authorization or cooperation of the producers/marketers to do so.  Claiming “proprietary rights” and insisting on complicated end-users’ agreement legalities, Monsanto requires that scientists not commissioned by her, cannot carry out any study whatsoever on her GM seeds without due approval.  And it goes without saying that approvals are only given to scientists and authorities deemed sympathetic to GMOs.  In 2009, a group of scientists unable to bear the restrictions any longer, submitted a statement to the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) protesting that “as a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the (bio)tech­nol­ogy.” The problem became so serious and embarrassing that the prestigious New Scientists journal had to weigh-in with an editorial passionately urging that the situation be re-dressed.

However, legally-conducted anti-science activities of Monsanto, only represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Unofficial, extra-legal dirty tactics are very frequently deployed to cage science and scientists, and coerce them into singing the praise of GMOs in food.  There is no space here to go into exhaustive details on people like Dr Kelvin Folta, Professor of Plant Science at the University of Florida who received among other perquisites, twenty-five  thousand dollars from Monsanto, for use as he wished for research and advocacy. In his infamous response now leaked and posted on the internet, Folta gratefully assured Monsanto of “good returns” on this investment, and promised to speak and write in support of any position on GMO as Monsanto would wish.  It turned out that he even did more than that, as in a number of instances, articles and commentaries were simply written and released in Prof Folta’s name by Monsanto’s hired script writers!

On the other hand are the ugly and dirty fights to malign honest scientists who refuse to be cowered by the GMO establishment.  The classical example in this respect was Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini in France.  In one of his compelling studies, Seralini and his team in CRIIGEN, (a research association which focuses on the risks of genetic engineering and pesticides and the development of alternatives) extended Monsanto’s study of the effect of the Roundup-tolerant GM maize on rats from the 90 days Monsanto’s scientists had conducted it so as to obtain permission to release the product, to the reasonable 2 years, expected to be able to study chronic effects.  Using exact protocols, rat strains, etc as Monsanto, Seralini and his colleagues showed conclusively that the GM maize had significantly adverse health impacts (mainly on liver and kidney, in addition to causing tumours) in rats fed the GM NK603 maize!  Prof Seralini was exhaustively maligned, and following extensive crude manipulations, the peer-reviewed and published paper was eventually fraudulently caused to be retracted.  Happily, in the past few months, Seralini has been receiving vindications at the Courts, and all the thick conspiracies against him are being exposed. Readers interested in the details mentioned here should simply google the keywords and see the incredible lengths pro-GMO people go to push their poison on people. I am pretty confident that even in the ongoing battle to safeguard Nigerians and indeed Africa from the onslaught of GMOs, the truth will equally prevail, and very soon too.

As serious as the health implications of GMOs in food are, they are not the only cause for concern.  The mortal threat GMOs constitute for food sovereignty is certainly sufficient ground to reject it entrance into our food system.  I was actually shocked to hear a distinguished speaker at a Scientific Conference I attended in Ibadan last month first confirm the problem, and then immediately wave it aside as a minor issue.  The so-belittled problem is the reality that you need to go back to the multinational company to give you the seed you need every planting season!

This is because, for all their claims that they want to help us attain food sufficiency, these multinational corporations are not charities.  They are set up primarily to make profits and in course of protecting their massive investment in the supposed super seeds, they duly claim “proprietary rights” which forbid the farmer from re-planting seeds from their harvested GM products!  And of a truth, how would they be expected to make profit when all a farmer need do is buy the seeds one time, and thereafter never need go back to procure new seeds?  Unscrupulous farmers might even start their own retail seed businesses! It therefore would appear to be only a reasonable practical requirement that farmers be compelled to come procure new seeds every planting season.

But careful considerations would reveal this as a direct affront to the mind of the almighty Creator who in His magnanimity and genius came up with the incredible seed concept in the first instance.  By definition, seeds are meant to be self-sustaining, and any supposed modern concept that changes this is nothing short of profanity!  Indeed, this cul-de-sac situation is a sufficient philosophical premise to conclude that the whole concept of producing some “wonderseeds” that cannot be generated by natural means (such as hybridization) has already failed the sustainability test.  The analogy here is to the natural Sciences, where concepts or ideas that contradict the second law of thermodynamics are ab initio conscripted to the gabbage bin, or at best reviewed suspiciously for some hidden booby-traps!

Even if you are thinking of “pirating” the products, and somehow outwit the heavily-funded no-nonsense legal departments established by these corporations to enforce compliance worldwide, most of these seeds are so compromised anyway during the process of fiddling with their genes that they come out sterile one way or the other!  Does one require a PhD to recognize the utter folly of deliberately entangling oneself in such a situation?

To worsen matters, GM seeds cannot co-habit peacefully with natural ones.  They end up taking over, driving their natural counterparts into extinction.   Indian Physicist Vandana Shiva lamented how Monsanto came to her country offering the seeds of their genetically-modified Bt-cotton  for 7 rupees per kilogram, only to gradually raise the price to 17,000 rupees, once the farmers got stuck up with the product and the natural variant became scarce!  According to India’s Crime Records Bureau of Statistics, 296,466 farmers in that country committed suicide been 1995 and 2013 largely as a result of their inability to cope with the economic losses that attended their switching to GMO crops. Burkina Faso saw herself being sucked into the same vortex and has quickly retraced her steps to opt out of the same genetically-modified product effective next year.

Yet, all these would appear mild, for it is quite possible that the multinational corporation might choose, at the height of our utter dependence on their products, not just to hike the prices, but even outright refuse to sell to us in the first place!  Just like the Americans have consistently refused us Apache helicopters to fight Boko Haram, for reasons best known to them.

The big problem here is that we are not talking of choppers, cotton, or even cocacola, but basic FOOD.  Nobody can do without food!

Yet another consideration that has made most developed nations to shut their doors to commercial GMOs is the potential impact on the ecosystem.  For instance, “Roundup Ready” maize has been genetically modified to withstand the pesticide Roundup (Glyphosate).  The selling pitch is that all you need do is spray Roundup generously on your farm and the weeds die out, while your maize thrives!  Apart from the adverse health problems associated with the genetic modifications (such as those shown by Prof Seralini as previously mentioned), there is also the problem that Glyphosate has now been declared by the WHO as capable of causing cancer.  Indeed, alternatives are already being sought for it in western countries. Therefore, promoting the widespread use of glyphosate does not sound like a good idea at all.  Better for us to research into more harmless ways of weeding our maize farms – if that is the problem. There is also the realization that the anti-pesticide gene that made the maize to withstand glyphosate could be transferred to bacteria in the guts of people who eat the maize.  This would effectively transmute those bacteria into anti-pesticide factories, and exacerbate the problem of anti-microbial resistance, a veritable sword of Damocles already hanging on mankind!  Needless to add that the same Monsanto which produces Roundup is also the sole owner of Roundup-Ready genetically-modified maize.

For the avoidance of doubts, this article is NOT advocating that Nigeria should shy away from the world of biotechnology.  We are not even suggesting that it is possible to keep GMO foods away from Nigeria.  But we seek to make very clear the gargantuan difference between having some GMO products trickle in into our supermarkets, and being the hub for producing the products!

The situation currently unfolding in the country, culminating in the recent efforts to use the good name of the Nigerian Academy of Science to push acceptance of GMOs in the country very clearly shows the desperate strait the pro-GMO lobby has found itself.  Since March 2015, after years of stalemated discussion, individual nation-states in Europe have won the right to opt out of cultivation of GMO crops, irrespective of the pronouncement of the central government in Brussels on their safety.  Several countries immediately began to declare their opting out.  The list includes Italy, Scotland, Germany, France, Austria, Greece, Poland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Latvia, etc.  At the last count, up to 19 countries, more than half of the countries in the EU, have indicated they are definitely opting out. Similarly in the past fortnight or so in the United States, the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled that all US States, counties, and local communities can ban or regulate “the planting of any and all commercially-grown genetically engineered crops,” no matter the claims of federal agencies or  Monsanto.

All these developments portend serious threats to the operations and profits of the Monsantos and Bayers of this world.  Their desperate efforts to open up new market could therefore be better appreciated.  This is why we must not underrate the desperate resolves of these fellows to break new grounds in our country, despite the clear loathsomeness of their project.

Steven Cerier, already referred to as the chief sculptor of the press statement pronouncing that the NAS has endorsed GMO foods and that our Nation has finally embraced the products, concluded his article on this note: “With the largest population and economy in Africa, Nigeria’s embrace of GMOs could be a game-changer in spreading African acceptance of the technology. …..Even if anti-GMO NGOs are successful in scaring other African nations from adopting biotechnology, Nigeria’s new generation of innovative crops will find their way across the continent. The country has very porous borders, and smuggling is rampant. As a result, GE seeds sanctioned for use in Nigeria are likely to be smuggled into neighboring countries…..This might prompt these nations to reconsider their bans on growing GMO crops and eventually lead to broad acceptance throughout the continent.”

From this categorical statement, can anybody then doubt the grand design for getting a new market for GMOs in Africa with Nigeria as the hub?

All we are fed by Nigerian GMO do-or-die pushers, is how warmly South Africa has embraced Monsanto, and how Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind. But it is on public records that Monsanto is only forcing itself down the throat of South Africa much like it is doing here.  There was this particularly cheerful news from South Africa however: unable to bear any further the many hypes, exaggerations, and outright lies in Monsanto’s claims through her radio adverts in South Africa, the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) headed for the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa, to lodge formal complaints.

As reported by Monsantomafia.com (14th October, 2015) “The Monsanto ad on Radio 702 basically claimed that their institution knows what’s best for the growing world population. They are the ones who can feed the 8 billion people by 2025 if only South Africans would accept their GMO seeds. Lying straight up, the ad claims that GM crops …..have been “strictly regulated and have been extensively researched and tested for safety.”

The Advertising Standards Authority subsequently investigated the case and ultimately ruled against Monsanto’s false advertisement claims, pulling their radio ad and warning of severe sanctions if such unsubstantiated claims were repeated. Unfortunately in Nigeria, our Biotech regulators have chosen to be the very mouthpiece spewing out and defending Monsanto’s many false claims! This attitude, together with our porous borders, huge populations, and leadership position in Africa, make us the perfect destination an embattled GMO industry seeks to set up her deathly business.

Similarly, little is heard about the fact that the supposed powerhouse of GM in Africa, Burkina Faso is actually fed up with her genetically modified cotton (even though this is not food), and has decided to phase-out the product effective next year.  Yet all these are plain facts that could be easily verified by just a few clicks on the internet.  Pro-GMO lobbyists are obviously counting on the fact that you the average literate Nigerian would be too busy to check up this literally life and death issue!

We must prove them wrong however! Educated Nigerians need to come out of their cosy comfort, check out the issues at stake themselves, and spread the word within their sphere of influence.  It is only by so doing that we can muster the necessary counter-pressure to assist our government resist the severe external pressure being mounted on it by multinational corporations and their powerful political lobbies.  We need, by our showing interest in these matters, to rise to help our government help us.

Much like the positions canvassed by the eminent members of the Nigerian Academy of Science who were obviously set up and desperately quoted out of context, our position in this paper is that Nigeria cannot afford to stay aloof of the field of biotechnology.  We need to be effectively engaged and be able to follow developments in every legitimate field of human endeavour – even if just for the sake of national security and the scientific spin-offs that might somehow accrue. This paper is not even insisting that GMO food and food products produced elsewhere should be banned from our country.  Obviously, we would wish for that to happen, but we realize that with our famed porous borders, this would only be a wil-o-the-wisp.  Besides, once the products are adequately labelled, (as we insist they must be) any Nigerian who wishes to make them his/her staples should be free so to do!

However, Nigerians must be in charge of the entire process; and this can only happen when we have the technology sufficiently demystified, cleared of all wild unsubstantiated claims, taught freely in our universities with pros and cons fully discussed; and researched in designated laboratories by compatriots,  free from the influence of blood-haunting Shylocks from abroad.

The situation currently unfolding in the country is that we have a multinational company, Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd, already licensed in Nigeria and ready to begin to spin out in Nigeria, seeds genetically-modified with genes from other species, including animals and bacteria, (a process patently forbidden by the laws of nature).  The seeds already developed in America are merely to be widely cultivated and marketed in Nigeria. If this is allowed to happen, it will effectively give licence to Monsanto to turn all of us, including generations yet unborn, into one large scientific experiment.

With all the bumper harvests currently being reported in the country, we have no business bringing GMOs into our food production. It will only limit our options for exporting our products, in fact.  We should refrain from applying dubious solutions to problems that do not exist with us!  We can learn from Israel, an agricultural wonderland which is not only adequately feeding her citizens, but also exporting agricultural products abroad.  Nevertheless, her researchers are on top of developments in bio-technology; but it is all for research and strategic applications, not for feeding the masses.  That looks like a reasonable model Nigeria can emulate.

 

Joshua Ojo (PhD) is professor of Health Physics and Environment at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.  He is also the President of the LivingScience Foundation, Ile-Ife.  The Foundation is dedicated to promoting public health in Nigeria, and  has absolutely NO FINANCIAL link  with any Pro- or Anti- GMO concerns.  Contact: Joshua_Ojo@yahoo.com

Please follow and like us:
Read More

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Issues in World Health


    Opinion: The election that matters for the health of the world

    By Prashant Yadav, Akash Goel 27 January 2017


    A health extension worker counselling a mother on best nutrition practices. Photo by: Nesbitt /  UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND

    Pandemics, resistant bacteria and other infectious disease pose some of the greatest threats to national borders, people and economies. The risks are global, so our resilience and preparedness not only depend on our own country’s health systems, but on the least common denominator of health systems around the world. This is why a physician in Manhattan was diagnosed with Ebola contracted in West Africa; a woman in Reno died of a resistant bacteria from India; and thousands in the United States contracted Zika, a virus that spread from Brazil across the Americas.

    Perhaps the most ideal mechanism to address global preparedness and response to such public health threats is through the World Health Organization, the United Nations agency with a 194-country membership charged with safeguarding the health of the world’s population.

    The WHO’s Executive Board just announced the three finalists in the running for director-general: David Nabarro, Sania Nishtar and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. While news about this critical upcoming election may be overshadowed by media coverage of executive actions and bombasting, it offers one of the greatest levers to impact the health of the world’s population and is as headline-deserving a topic as any.

    In the current context of what the WHO needs the most, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, former health and foreign affairs minister of Ethiopia, is the most qualified for the role. Over the past 30 years, he has led health systems in his home country of Ethiopia and chaired the board of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, one of the largest coffers for global health financing.

    Tedros’ suitability for director-general rests is his irrefutable ability to create and build efficient and sustainable health systems, the linchpin of health care delivery. Under his leadership, Ethiopia has made such dramatic improvements in public health outcomes that it is often heralded as a model for health care delivery in low- and middle-income countries. During his tenure, Ethiopia trained and deployed nearly 40,000 health extension workers — mostly women — to the most remote and hardest-to-reach parts of the country to provide basic health care services. Evidence suggests that his interventions have led to precipitous declines in rates of infant mortality to levels that even countries with far more resources have not been able to achieve.

    While Ethiopia had previously grappled with one of the greatest doctor shortages in the world, under Tedros’ leadership, the country opened 13 new medical schools, dramatically increasing the number of graduating doctors in the country. When there were concerns or critiques about how this may lead to decrease in quality of medical education, Tedros created new partnership models to pair the new Ethiopian schools with leading U.S. and European institutions for faculty career development, curriculum enhancements, and capacity building for locally relevant research.

    Both of us have seen firsthand at the University of Michigan how such partnerships are creating high-quality, highly motivated medical doctors and researchers in Ethiopia.

    Of course there is also a political element to the role of director-general. Tedros has witnessed firsthand that the real challenge for the WHO — and for mproving health of populations around the world — is not a lack of new ideas and innovative concepts. It will need serious commitment of resources — both in terms of financial and political capital, and also strong implementation. With more than 80 percent of its money coming from voluntary contributions earmarked for specific programs, the WHO has little fungibility or budgetary flexibility to act on emergent health issues.

    Tedros has been the health minister of a resource-poor country where, quite often, multiple aid agencies work with their own specific — and sometimes conflicting — goals, implemented through fragmented delivery architecture. In Ethiopia, Tedros was able to convince government and private financiers that the overall system benefits when they let the country government act as a single point of control and coordination. Of all the candidates, he would be the most capable at negotiating enhanced core contributions from member states. His pragmatic and implementation-oriented managerial style and his political experience stand the best chance of convincing WHO member states to increase contributions to create a well-functioning WHO.

    Over time, the WHO has burdened its scarce technical and resource capacity in managing a whole gamut of activities, extending it into areas that would probably belong in the mandate of other global and regional agencies. Tedros knows how to focus an organization on its core and central function. His counterparts in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have also made him realize that it will be extremely important to balance international rule setting and normative policy while also allowing space for countries to determine their own policy around pressing health issues. Striking such a balance requires someone who is an insider to the club of developing country health ministers.

    This election may well represent a watershed moment in the architecture of global health governance. The WHO urgently needs a leader to repair its deficit in finances and credibility.  Fractured and under-resourced health systems are in need of fortification to not only project those within their own borders but also to build resilience against the rise of transnational threats to public health. Tedros is the candidate to do both, and it would be in all of our best interest to elect him.

    Stay tuned for more opinion pieces on the three director-general candidates and the role of the WHO under new leadership in May 2017, and read Devex’s exclusive look at the stakes behind the vote.

    About the authors

    Yadav

    Prashant Yadav

    Prashant Yadav is a senior fellow at the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan and a visiting scholar at the Harvard Medical School.


    Akash%2520goel

    Akash Goel

    Akash Goel is a physician and journalist. He is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.


    Please follow and like us:
    Read More

    Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

    Issues in World Health Care I

    Opinion: My vision for the WHO

    By David Nabarro 27 March 2017



    Dr. David Nabarro, candidate in the race for World Health Organization director-general. Photo by: Simon Ruf / UNMEER / CC BY-ND

    We live in a world that is constantly changing. It has changed more in the past 100 years than it did in the previous thousand. An uneven climate, novel diets and new ways of communicating all impact on our lifestyles. Amid these changes, our health is a precious asset and we must preserve it carefully. For many people — especially those who are poor, vulnerable and living amid conflict — maintaining good health is a constant challenge.

    For these and many other reasons, the World Health Organization is vitally important to all of us.

    We need the WHO as we try to understand risks to our health. We need the WHO to help us respond to threats of disease when they appear. We need the WHO’s advice when deciding how best to make sure that those who need health care can get it. Because patterns of sickness and disease vary from place to place, the WHO has to be nimble when deciding which issues need its attention. That calls for effective leadership — and it is needed now more than ever.

    If elected as director-general of the WHO, I will prioritize the building of capacity within countries: Poor countries will receive the support they need to protect their people and to keep them safe. I will ensure that the worldwide response system will function well, responding impartially to people’s needs, with dependable support systems in each region.

    I will upgrade its response to disease outbreaks, as a matter of urgency. I know what is required after leading international responses to malaria, avian influenza, Ebola and cholera. The WHO was criticized for a delayed response to the 2014 outbreak of Ebola disease. Yet as the premier health body of our world — owned by all countries and serving the needs of all people — it must strive both to be relevant and effective, at all times. I have set out what needs to be modified in the wake of the Ebola response. I know what is needed and am ready to make it happen.

    A relevant and effective WHO will help close the health gap by identifying inequalities in people’s health experiences and ensuring they are overcome. I have seen the impact of unequal access to health care with my own eyes because I have treated the sick in many countries. Most people in today’s world get sick and die because they get diseases that are linked to the ways they live. The WHO’s principle role is to show how diet, exercise, water, sanitation, education, conflict, the environment and human rights all influence how long people live and how healthy they are. That is why I work for public health through primary health care, leaving no one behind.

    Often many health challenges people face can be prevented by ensuring early access to the factors that determine well-being. Why should anyone have to die of an illness that can easily be treated? Why should people anywhere be sick when prevention is inexpensive? In September 2015 our world agreed to a plan to ensure the well-being of all people and nurturing of the planet. If that plan — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — is fully implemented, people everywhere will enjoy good health.

    I want the WHO to be at the heart of efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, supporting the many governments across our world who are working to put the plan into action: making people’s health and well-being a central objective.

    When I worked in communities as a young doctor, I always depended on WHO guidance on how best to treat those with tuberculosis, to mend broken bones, to tackle complicated deliveries or to manage malnutrition in childhood. Governments also turn to the WHO for advice and that is why the organization must be well-managed, properly financed, credible and trustworthy.

    I want the WHO to be closely connected to its member countries and those people working on the frontlines — helping them analyze needs, draw on evidence of what works (and what does not), engage different specialists and pursue cost-effective solutions. It is urgent work: our changing world does not wait for anyone.

    I want the WHO to evolve as the undisputed lead agency for health, showing what needs to be done in response to malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, to chronic diseases and to the needs of women, children and adolescents. When I led the WHO’s malaria effort in 1999, my intention was for WHO expertise to catalyze a global effort; it actually resulted in a halving of malaria deaths in Africa over the past 15 years. This is a massive reduction in suffering and death and an achievement of which many should justifiably be proud.

    I want the WHO now to catalyze reductions in widespread suffering caused by lifestyle diseases such as cancer, obesity and diabetes. In 1985 I was involved in research that led Tanzanian scientists to find high levels of diabetes in the adult population. In 2015 I was a commissioner tasked with finding better ways to prevent obesity in childhood and reduce the risk of diabetes in later life. Advancing this work needs powerful and unrelenting advocacy by the WHO.

    If elected, I will ensure that the WHO is transformed with a scaled-up and catalytic response to outbreaks of infectious disease, as well as to noncommunicable illnesses. The WHO will set the standards and ensure they are implemented by working through governments, NGOs and other actors.

    I want the WHO to demonstrate results and show that it offers value for money. I want the  WHO to be trusted by people, governments and partners everywhere — contributing to improved standards of health and health care.

    There is a simple mandate that sits at the heart of the WHO. It means enabling all people, everywhere, regardless of gender, status or nationality, can attain the highest possible standard of health. I want the WHO at all times to demonstrate how its work links directly to improving people’s health.

    My career has taken me from treating patients as a clinician, to teaching medical students, all the way to being an international senior leader. I have worked on global health issues in more than 50 countries for over 40 years. I know I am the best qualified person to be the director-general of the WHO and ensure that it is a WHO that is fit for the future.

    This op-ed is one in a series from all three WHO candidates. You can read our full coverage and analysis on the election of the next WHO director-general in May 2017.

    Devex does not endorse any particular candidate.

    About the author

    David%2520nabarro

    David Nabarro

    Dr. David Nabarro is a special adviser to the United Nations secretary-general on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change and a candidate in the race for WHO director-general. In the past 12 years, successive secretaries-general of the United Nations have entrusted David to lead collective action on some of the most pressing and complex challenges — responding to avian and pandemic influenza, promoting food security, ending malnutrition, combating Ebola, promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and advancing efforts relating to climate change.

    Please follow and like us:
    Read More

    Posted by on May 6, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

    Breast cancer detection bra much better than mammograms

    Breast cancer detection bra will never see the light of day thanks to the deadly mammogram racket

    http://www.naturalnews.com/2017-05-05-breast-cancer-detection-bra-will-never-see-the-light-of-day-due-to-deadly-mammogram-racket.html

     

    Image: Breast cancer detection bra will never see the light of day thanks to the deadly mammogram racket

    (Natural News) Eighteen-year-old Julian Rios Cantu, an engineering student from Monterrey, Mexico, recently made headlines for his cancer-detecting bra, known as EVA. Cantu stole the show at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards and walked away with the top prize for his outstanding device.

    The bra is equipped with 200 biosensors that monitor breast shape, temperature and weight, as well as “map” the surface of the breast. According to Rios Cantu, the bra only needs to be worn for about one hour per week to do its job, and it was specifically designed to help women with a genetic predisposition for breast cancer.

    Rios Cantu says he was inspired by his mother’s struggles with breast cancer. Together with three friends, he created the device for his tech company, Higia Technologies. “EVA is a network of biosensors that covers the woman’s breast, takes the temperature data, analyzes them, and sends the information to an application or any computer,” he explained. The young inventor says that when there is a malformation or tumor in the breast, there is a change in blood flow and temperature that can be easily detected by the device.

    Rios Cantu took home a whopping $20,000 for his groundbreaking cancer-detecting bra, and he beat out 13 other young student entrepreneurs from across the globe — but whether or not his device will make it to the marketplace is another matter.

    The use of biosensors is a novel way to detect changes in breast tissue without having to undergo invasive and potentially dangerous mammograms, but will Rios Cantu’s EVA ever be able to replace the go-to method of cancer screening?

    The breast cancer industry relies on screening techniques — like mammograms — to round up patients. Mammograms are particularly harmful to women, as past studies have shown that the actual practice of mammography causes more cases of breast cancer and mastectomies than it prevents. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, was led by Norwegian researchers and it found that women who underwent mammograms had more cancer and more breast removal operations than women who avoided the screening procedure altogether.

    This finding seems to coincide with other research that has indicated that mammograms are likely to do more harm than good. Studies have indicated that mammograms are not only an ineffective screening tool, but also that they are outdated and may result in misdiagnosis. As Natural News writer Ethan Huff reported, “After looking at data on more than 600,000 women between the ages of 39 and 74 who underwent the procedure on a routine basis, researchers found that many women are misdiagnosed. Many of these same women are consequently mistreated with chemotherapy, resulting in their rapid demise.”

    Another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine came to a similar conclusion. The researchers of that study found that in order to prevent one breast cancer death, another 490 to 670 women would get a false positive,  70 to 100 would have an unneeded biopsy and between 3 and 14 women would undergo unnecessary treatment for a non-malignant form of cancer that would never become “clinically apparent,” if not for mammograms.

    In other words, for every one woman a mammogram saves, several hundred are harmed — which is hardly impressive. If anything, it’s downright disheartening. Even though this “screening practice” is hardly worth the effort, mammograms are still perceived as the end-all be-all for cancer prevention — instead of actual approaches to preventing cancer like following a healthy diet, being more active and changing your lifestyle. Even though research continues to show mammograms aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, it seems that they will be quite difficult to replace.

    Sources:

    Please follow and like us:
    Read More