MPs Reject GMO Bill

A report of the parliamentary committee on Science and Technology has aised the executive to withdraw the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, The Observer has learnt.

The bill that seeks to regulate research and development of genetically- modified organisms (GMOs) was first tabled in the House in 2008. A source on the committee, which had initially recommended the enactment of the proposed law, told us that members recently made a U-turn and aised that the bill be withdrawn on grounds that the public is not comfortable with the law.

“Like it is stated in our report, as a committee we have found out that majority of the public is against the law. We cannot legislate against the aspirations and wishes of the public,” said a source who is a member of the committee.

The committee’s final resolutions were arrived at during the second stakeholders workshop held on August 12 in the Conference hall in the Office of the President. The resolutions capture views from academia, civil society, farmers and other interest groups.

According to a copy of the report which we have seen, the Uganda Youth Platform, one of the groups consulted, recommended that the GMO bill be withdrawn from Parliament and instead another bill that bans the importation and development of genetically- modified organisms, be enacted.

The Council of the Pharmaceuticals Society of Uganda aised that in case the bill is to be approved, a competent authority should be set up to regulate the use of genetically-modified organisms. The body said this authority should have sub-committees which would specifically look at biosafety issues in the broad areas of agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry, industry and environment, human and other animal health and safety.

“In the event that the bill cannot be withdrawn, it was proposed that the bill be amended to provide for g regulation that deters importation, development, dealing in and release of GMOs,” reads part of the report.

The report will soon be forwarded to the speaker’s office so that it is allocated a slot on the order paper. When contacted yesterday, Anthony Ssemmuli (Buwekula), the chairperson of the committee, declined to comment on the subject.

“The report can only be shared with the media after it has been tabled in the House,” he said.

He was, however, quick to add that the “law has become unpopular.”

Last month, Ssemmuli told us in an interview that Parliament should go slow on the bill since it had very many intricacies that had to be understood before it is passed. The GMO bill has attracted divided opinion from the public. Some people say it should be enacted to promote food security and introduce high-yielding seed varieties.

Its opponents argue that enacting the law would put our farmers at the mercy of big agricultural multinational companies, which control the seed market. Similar disagreements ensued among the members of the committee and the report states: “There was no consensus on the way forward but the participants agreed that some views from stakeholders be forwarded to the speaker for aice.”

Source : The Observer

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