GMO FOR POWER NOT FOOD

GMO FOR POWER NOT FOOD

In my days in secondary school, one of my best subjects was integrated
science. That subject had Biology, Physics, and Chemistry all fused in
one even though we didn’t know it then. I developed an unusual
interest on one topic then – Photosynthesis – not just because of the
name but also because of the story behind the definition of
Photosynthesis.
We were told that plants ‘manufactured’ their food with the help of
the sun. To tell you the truth, I did not understand what that strange
story meant, but the idea that everything we ate as food came with the
help of the sun made the interest in Photosynthesis all the more
interesting. But as I grew up, I came to realize that as a matter of
fact, the matter of the Sun collaborating with the green leaves of
plants was not as simple as I could ever have imagined. But I accepted
that indeed without the sun making a significant input, it would be
impossible to have breakfast.
Over the years, this has been what has been taught in schools. But
certain scientists have tested that precept, and have gone ahead to
prove that human beings can actually contest the power of the Sun, and
influence how we ‘manufacture’ our food. Using a technique known as
biosynthesis, and which radically departs from the photosynthetic
hypothesis, scientists can actually perform surgical operation on a
seed like maize or yam or sorghum.
I have seen them do it. What they do is this: they open up a seed
which naturally has a bad gene and which cannot produce much. Then
they open up the cells of another living organism, like a fly or a
maggot or even a rat and replace the unproductive gene or cell of the
plant with the most productive gene of the housefly, maggot, or rat.
As soon as they are done, the plant is introduced to the soil. The
result is what we often refer to as genetically modified organisms,
GMOs.
Now, because there is something in the superstructure of the plant
that has been altered, scientists and the world at large are not very
certain whether or not the consumption of these GMOs may have side
effects. Well, yes, there’s been a back and forth on that topic but
that’s not our focus right now. What I am interested in is what those
scientists have done with the GMOs.
Instead of out rightly consuming those GMOs, they use about 95% of it
for gas and for electricity. How? Local authorities in places like
Germany have built special silos with a network of underground pipes
crisscrossing their community. They mix these grains, rice, millet,
sorghum with cow, goat and pig dung and the effervescence of gas which
takes place during the chemical reaction from that mishmash is what
passes through those pipes to homes, offices and industries.
In the past 8months in Benin City, I have relied exclusively on power
generators for my energy needs. Businesses along the airport road have
nearly all shut down, and most of us cannot sleep in our homes for the
heat and the mosquitoes. What you are reading here is a very expensive
piece of writing: I go the hog to get very expensive but dirty fuel to
fill my power generating set. But the tragedy in all of this is not in
the expensive and dirty fuel we are using to power our generators.
The tragedy is contained in two documents: one a report by Public Eye
– Dirty Diesel: How Swiss Traders Flood Africa with Toxic Fuels and
another credited to the World Economic Forum which stated that four of
the 20 cities in the world – Onitsha, Aba, Kaduna and Umuahia – with
the worst air quality are in Nigeria. World Bank Reports indicate that
an estimated 5.5 million lives were lost in 2013 to diseases
associated with outdoor and household air pollution, causing human
suffering and reducing economic development.
We will not focus on the fact that certain Swiss companies –
Trafigura, Vitol, Glencore, Addax & Oryx and Mercuria – deliberately
produce fuel of a ‘sulphur level of up to 27 times the European
standard for gasoline and close to 400 times the European standard for
diesel’. We will however focus on two things: one, on getting the
people in the Netherlands who allow such poisonous fuels to be
produced in their country to be sold for a profit in the West African
Sub-region to stop.
Our governments in the sub-region have to do something as well, and
that is why we hope that the regional meetings being slated by African
governments on issues of our environment will at least insist on
acceptable fuel quality standards for diesel and gasoline entering the
region.
The second issue we should be focusing on is the need to channel our
energies on developing our GMO technology to produce GMO rice and
other cereals like maize, sorghum, and millet for power. I am not very
interested in the food right now. And this is because we currently
spend about $2.4billion importing rice and other allied foodstuff,
some of which we are not so sure aren’t genetically modified and
probably unsafe for human consumption. What then can be wrong with
using biosynthesis for power and using that to mitigate climate
change?
In a related development, the National Biotechnology Development
Agency has said that genetically modified beans would be available in
commercial quantity across Nigerian markets on or before 2019. The
NABDA Director General, Prof Lucy Ogbadu, who said this on Wednesday
November 23, in Abuja at the November edition of Open Forum on
Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), revealed that Nigeria would soon
witness abundant beans as the GM cowpeas (or beans) would be released
into the market in large quantities in two or three years’ time.
She said the cowpea, which is currently undergoing field trials, is
safe and wouldn’t pose any health risk to Nigerians. “Rules are being
followed in its production. Our Ethical Committee is working day and
night to ensure that no rule is breached. Nigerians should be rest
assured that the GM beans and other crops which will be available
later in the country would be safe for consumption. In 2-3 years’
time, cowpea should be ready in commercial quantity in the country”,
Prof Ogbadu said.
She dismissed “the insinuation” that GM foods are unhealthy; saying
that over 100 Nobel Laureates had signed a petition to guarantee its
safety.

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