“Walking into Slavery with Our Eyes Open” – the Space for Resisting Genetically Modified Crops in Nigeria

  • Charmaine Pereira


This study focuses on genetic modification of cowpea, a food crop grown predominantly by poor men and women in Nigeria and an important source of
protein for the poor. The official justification for genetic modification is that it promotes resistance to the Maruca insect, which is said to be capable of destroying
up to 80% of a farmer’s crop. The genetic engineering of food sources represents an extension of resources for extractive activities from the traditional extractive
sectors (oil, gas and solid minerals) to the commodification of life, all in the relentless pursuit of profit. In this article, I take up the question of what has made
it possible for genetically modified (GM) crops to be adopted in Nigeria. I begin by exploring the sources of support for such an initiative, their interconnections
and their interests in promoting the development of GM crops. This is followed by a feminist analysis of the intellectual politics of this regime and its contested
interpretations of science in relation to the development and promotion of GM crops in Nigeria. Finally, I explore the space for resistance to GM crops in the
country. Organised resistance has emphasised the risks of inadequate regulation of biotechnology, the damaging environmental consequences, and the threats to food sovereignty. While this is necessary, it is not sufficient. What is missing are feminist perspectives highlighting the extraction of women’s labour underpinning the process, as well as the gendered character of access to, and control over, land in the making of livelihoods.