Angry Catholic doctors in Nigeria have demanded that the government kicks out Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because of its genetically modified cassava project, which they say threatens food security in the country and Africa.
The doctors have written to David Mark, President of the Senate of Nigeria, stating that the justification for the cassava project supported by Gates Foundation is “a scientific hoax” meant to benefit the American agribusiness giant Monsanto in which Bill Gates is a shareholder.
They want Senator Mark to call for a thorough senate investigation into the issues related to GMOs and the role of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Nigeria.
The foundation announced a grant of $8.3 million to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to support the second phase of its BioCassava Plus project, which aims to increase the nutritional value of cassava for Kenya and Nigeria.
“Both of these projects use a range of crop breeding techniques, including transgenic approaches, sometimes referred to as genetic modification, or more commonly called GMOs,” the Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria says in a letter to Senator Mark signed by association chairman Dr Philip Njemanze.
Gates Foundation claims that they funded a work by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center titled “Transgenic Biofortification of the Starchy Staple Cassava (Manihot esculenta) Generates a Novel Sink for Protein.” The controversial paper suggests that cassava, a starchy tuber crop, which is a major food source in much of the developing world, could one day be turned into a food staple “capable of supplying inexpensive, plant-based proteins for food, feed and industrial applications”.
But the authors of the paper retracted it, following an institutional investigation that failed to find critical supporting data. Following the publication of the article, the authors were unable to confirm the presence of the zeolin gene within the transgenic cassava plants in several subsequent studies.
“This raises concerns about the validity of the results reported in the article,” the Catholic doctors say. “Additionally, the Committee on Research Integrity at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has carried out an institutional investigation which revealed that significant amounts of data and supporting documentation that were claimed to be produced by the first author could not be found.”
In effect, the medics state, the much touted benefits by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that justified the BioCassava Plus Project Nigeria is a scientific hoax.
“Rather, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at substituting our natural cassava with GMO cassava made by their company (Bill Gates owns at least over 500,000 shares) Monsanto of St Louis MO, USA, which will create dependency on this transgenic variant of Bill Gates cassava.”
The doctors quote a US Department of Agriculture report that confirms the poor yield performance of GM crops, saying, “GE [genetically engineered] crops available for commercial use do not increase the yield potential of a variety. In fact, yield may even decrease.”
In 2008, the United Nations International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) also concluded that GM technology is not likely to contribute significantly to increasing yield potential in the future.
One of Africa’s leading specialists in plant genetics at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Prof Jean Albert Zongo, has warned African leaders that the distribution of the GMOs is creating dispersion of its genes into nature that reduces biodiversity. The GMOs will mix with local varieties and change their natural structure. He maintains that the evolution of any plant lies in the diversity of its species and when these varieties are lost it becomes impossible for that plant to evolve.
Similar remarks have been echoed by leading European plant geneticists who recruited Prince Charles of the United Kingdom to head the fight of Western Europeans against GMOs.
However, without any enabling laws on genetic food biosafety testing in Nigeria, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through some local actors like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigerian National Root Crop Research Institute, BioCassava Plus Nigeria, and international actors like Rockefeller Foundation, Cargill, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Syngenta, Bayer, and Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI), have continued to unlawfully introduce the Bill Gates transgenic variants of cassava, rice, maize, yam, and sorghum to displace the natural food crops in Nigeria and across Africa.
“These actions of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation threaten the food security of over 240 million Africans,” the doctors said.
Catholic health professionals at the recently concluded Catholic Health Summit in Abuja (23 – 25 October, 2013) analyzed the actions by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and all of them were alarmed because of the long-term implications, that the food security of 160 million Nigerians would depend on only one man Bill Gates.
“Bill Gates could at will switch off the growth gene of all the GMOs in our staple crops, or could choose to target them with plant disease causing mass hunger, pestilence and death,” the doctors said.