Uganda: Civil Society Demands a New Bio-Safety Bill

Advocators for food Sovereignty in Africa and pro Agro ecological farming techniques have asked the Government of Uganda to re draft the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012 to include clauses that protect Ugandans against being exposed to Genetically Improved Organisms (GMO).

“We want a law which has clauses related to labelling of GMO products on the market because not all Ugandan are interested in consuming GMOs. The Biotechnology Bill 2012 does not provide for Labelling of GMO products which contradicts the international provisions Uganda is signatory to.” said Bridget Mugambe Nabikolo, AFSA Policy Advocate office .

Addressing the media during a four days learning exchange training meeting organised by Agro Ecology Fund and AFSA in Masaka Central Uganda, Mugambe said the committee which approves Biotechnology Researches geared at introducing Introduce GMOs in Uganda is composed of Scientist who are participating in the on-going GMOs research which she said, is a conflict of interest because majority of the stakeholder (small scale farmers) are not represented on such committee.

The Advocators believes that exposing Agriculture sector to modern technologies like Genetically Engineered organism may not help the Country to Improve both food and cash crop production because majority of GMO grown crops are for industrial.

Under their Umbrella Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), the anti GMOs say the current Bill which the 9thParliament refused to pass has many loopholes because it doesn’t protect Ugandans against GMOs and in addition farmers not represented on the National Biotechnology Committee.

“We are gravelly concerned about the current Biotechnology and Biosafety bill being proposed in Uganda .We find it troubling that a country which is fourth in the production of organic foods in the world and first in Africa opts for the unknown . Instead of opening Uganda to GMOs, we urge policy makers to support small famers, such the families to improve on food production by supporting them with quality Agricultural inputs” Said Jane Astone, Executive Director, SWIFT Foundation.

The chairperson National Biosafety Committee, professor Assibo Opuda, in response to the issues of farmers representation on the committee said farmers are represented though he did not mention the farmer organisations where the representative came from.

“It’s not true that farmers are not represented on the committee, their representatives are there. The committee’s responsibility is to see that all stake holders are brought on board that is how we can protect the interest of various stakeholder” Opuda said.

Opuda while reacting to the issue of labelling GMO products supported the anti GMOs saying all GMO products must be labelled to ease identification between GMOs and non GMOs.

The Biotechnology and Biosafety bill 2012 received both positive and negative reaction from the general public, the agitators for the introduction of GMO technologies have been arguing that GMO technology has the potential to scale up the agricultural sector which is the country’s Economic back bone.

On the other hand, the Anti GMOs in their argument say growing GMO crops in the country will increase the cost of doing agriculture because GMO crops require much application of insect and pesticide as well as fertilizers. While other others say the technology is not environmentally friendly.

Since the tabling of the Bill in the Parliament, Ugandan scientist have been conducting GMO crops trials especially for crops such as Cotton , maize, Cassava but such crops cannot be released for commercialization before the legislators pass laws which regulates the application of the technology.

Source: East African Business Week


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