Apr 1, 2009

ERA condemns alleged IITA’s plan to enrich cassava

Written by Daniel Gumm
Vanguard - Apapa,Lagos,Nigeria Tuesday, 31 March 2009

THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has criticised plans by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to carry out an alleged enrichment of Nigerian cassava, saying the exercise, if not halted by the Federal Government, is the culmination of a script written by the biotech industry to jeopardise Nigeria’s food sovereignty forever. A release from the USAID which was widely reported in the national dailies last week had stated that scientists at the IITA are working on cassava-based recipes that will be used in improving the nutrition and health of vulnerable groups such as women, children under five, and expectant mothers.

The research, christened, “Unleash the Power of Cassava in Africa (UPoCA),” is getting a $5.3 million funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and is a two-year project to introduce and test cassava-based complementary food for acceptability in Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.

UPoCA is coming on the heels of the Nigerian government’s alleged approval for the Danforth Centre in U.S to carry out contained field trials on a so-called super cassava in Nigeria with National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike in Imo State as a cover.

But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN frowned at the silence of the government on the planned trials, warning that the flurry of “back-door” approvals and researches to flood Nigeria with genetically modified crops in the guise of crop improvement is a grand ploy to colonise Nigeria’s food future. ERA/FoEN is worried that this experiment is seeking to use children, women and pregnant women as Guinea pigs for doubtful ends.

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