Kampala, Uganda | Isaac Khisa| The Uganda government says it is determined to ensure that the Biotech Bill is passed into law to facilitate safe development and application of biotechnology in the country.
The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012, is now before parliament for debate amidst protest from the opponents of the technology.
State Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Christopher Kibazanga said the government would do all it takes to ensure that the bill is passed in parliament, as it strives to alleviate poverty among the more than 80% of the country’s population involved in agriculture sector.
“Any resistance against science in any field (in this country) means that you are only telling your people to remain poor,” Kibazanga said while launching the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2016 report in Kampala on Thursday.
“In order to maximally exploit the potential of our agriculture sector, we need to consider adopting this technology where necessary but we also need to regulate its use and educate the public about it so that they can appreciate its relevance and harmonized regulations.”
He said crop biotechnology innovations can help increase food production to address the needs of the growing population, especially those in the developing world.
He lashed out those opposing the technology saying most of them consume biotech products purchased unknowingly especially from supermarkets.
This comes barely few days after some MPs are reported to have confessed to receiving bribes from multinational companies to support the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill,popularly known as the GMO bill during the heated National Resistance Movement caucus meeting.
Presently, Uganda is seen as a regional leader in agricultural biotechnology research for food security crops including banana for resistance against bacterial wilt and improved nutritional profile, cassava for resistance to cassava brown streak and cassava mosaic disease and maize for drought and drought resistance.
Other crops under research includes rice for more effective use of nutrients and increased productivity, sweet potato for resistance to pests and Irish potato for resistance to potato blight.
Barbra Zawedde, the coordinator of Uganda Biosciences Information Centre (UBIC) said the country’s agriculture sector faces numerous challenges ranging from climate change to pests and diseases that could only be addressed with the help of science.
“There are so many methods of addressing low agricultural productivity including biotechnology,” she said, adding that biotech is mainly applied where conventional technologies have failed to address the problem.