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Uganda Govt insists GMO bill has to be passed

(L-R)Faith Nguthi, Senior Program Officer ISAAA, Barbra Zawedde, coordinator UBIC, State Minister for Agriculture, Christopher Kibazanga and Theresa Ssengoba, the Board Chairperson Uganda National Council for Science and Technology during the launch of ISAAA 2016 report at Hotel African in Kampala on July 06.

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.

11 comments

  1. Richard Kakeeto

    Once again big agri is winning. The rich take what they want. One can only pray that the honorable Kibazanga will have the courage to label the GMO products on the shelves so that consummeers who have moral objections to them can choose whether to buy or not.

    • The proposed biosafety bill includes labeling requirements. Why do activists and organic industry interests – fueled largely by European donations – want to keep technology out of the hands of Uganda farmers? This has nothing to do with “big agri” or “the rich.” Uganda farmers and consumers have SERIOUS needs for technology options TODAY – to fight banana wilt and army worm.

  2. There is so much fear based false information about this subject. the average person is not trained in the science to be able to differentiate between the real science and the prolific pseudo-science designed to scare them.. Please read “Planting the Future” by the European Academies Science Advisory Council 2013. it’s free on line:

    “There is no validated evidence that GM crops have greater adverse impact on health and
    the environment than any other technology used in plant breeding…There is compelling evidence that
    GM crops can contribute to sustainable development goals with benefits to farmers, consumers, the
    environment and the economy… It is vital that sustainable agricultural production and food security
    harnesses the potential of biotechnology in all its facets.”

    Just perhaps trained scientists know more than those who wish to profit by selling fear.

  3. I have witnessed what biotechnology can do for a farmer in Hawaii, where the papaya ringspot virus destroyed one of our staples. With research and innovation, the small farmer was able to continue farming thanks to improved seeds. I hope that the small farmers of Uganda get access to these tools that helped us.

    Don’t let fear dictate policy but instead look at the facts.

    • Peter Wamboga-Mugirya

      Hi Jony Kamiya, well-said it lady! Indeed Hawaii is one place in the planet that has tales to tell on the usefulness of modern biotechnology which was used as a technical/scientific intervention that saved the pawpaws or papayas from total destruction by the ringspot virus. Thanks a lot for sharing as a practical evidence and witness to this science as it happened. Some people argue for the sake of advancing some notions for argument-sake and sounding highly knowledgeable. But when Joni Kamiya speaks or writes, we should all listen because she is a witness to how papayas were saved by biotechnology! Kudos people of Hawaii for providing the world with the light and away to emulate in solving some of similar challenges in crops! God Bless you!

  4. No no no. Research upon research has proven GMO’s to be destructive. There are safe and natural means to improve food production either than the biotech thing. Most part of Europe and America are shifting to Organic,Biodynamic and Regenerative farming to improve soil quality, protect the environment and increase crop yield. #SayNoToGMO’s
    Africa don’t need GMO

  5. Mulyante Robert

    No. No. No. Ofusu, you are giving forceful wrong information forcefully. Science there is no scientific evidence to substantiate your claims. They are just claims. Check the opinion of Nigerian Academy of Sciences or African Academy of Science. Africa should grow crops to feed her people not for the Europeans who harnessed science long time ago and are still doing so. We cannot grow food for the European luxury life.

    • If Africans shold grow crops to feed her people then we should mantain or go back to our style of Farming. Which is organic..!! A nation that destroys its soil, destroys it’s self. Let’s practice a farming system that supports and improve soil quality. MonSanto, DuPont and the other seed companies are destroying nature with their seeds of mass destruction.
      #SayNoToGmo’s

      • Peter Wamboga-Mugirya

        Mr. or Mrs or Miss. Kwame Ofosu–you’re forcing a wrong line down our throats. I think you were given the right name [OFOSU] for the right character, you are. First of all, Genetic Modification (GM)-technology, is not a farming system, but a breeding system. Agricultural Scientists, do deep cellular intrusion in a cell of a plant to fight a pest, a disease or environmental harm to a crop/plant. Just like medical and veterinary scientists do in human and animal sciences respectively, especially in cases of diagnosing to understand and “treat” or repel or kill the pathogen that may have caused a disease-infection and crop/plant damage. That’s why its referred to cellular or molecular biology [science] because the study and treatment is at cell-level, within the seed or body of a crop/plant. The Molecular Biologists (Ag-scientists) research for genes that provide resistance to the respective pest, disease or environmental harm. Once the genes are fully integrated into the cell of the affected crop/plant and proof/evidence is gathered that the affected crop/plant is now resistant, that’s when the scientists and regulators declare it genetically-modified (GM) to resist or tolerate that constraint (pest, disease and environmental challenge [e.g drought]. Is that farming yet? No. What I’ve discussed above is breeding. Now when it comes to farming, farmers will decide to use a GM seed[s] the way they want–in accordance with their particular or unique need(s) and interests e.t.c. If farmers find such GM-seed useful and relevant to their need, and can access and afford them, they’d go ahead and use them. So it is farmers who choose what they need, and what works for them–whether organic or inorganic fertilizers, GM, Hybrid or Conventional, old Traditional Seed, its their choice. And we should respect that right to choose what is appropriate, accessible, known to them, likeable, affordable, understandable, applicable/works for them. Now if the soils are lacking fertility, farmers who can afford industrial fertilizers, will buy and apply the fertilizers. If they cannot afford or do not want industrial fertilizers, they’ll use organic-manure (locally-generated at their farms or homes). And once farmers apply industrial fertilizers, then such crops cease to be organic. Or if farmers grow crops with organic manure, but use chemicals to store and protect harvested produce from post-harvest pests, then again such food/produce will not be organic. The food may have come from a GM seed, is not sprayed with chemical-pests while in farms/gardens, is not grown with industrial fertilizers and is not stored with anti-pest chemicals, then food from such a crop is 100% organic.
        Its only and only when chemicals are applied to crops in fields/gardens, in stores, in transportation, in processing (flour mills, kitchen and on the table–like additives or additions like salt) that’s when such food will cease to be organic. So there is no contradiction between GM and Organic. GM-crops can be grown organically by applying manure, inorganic pesticides (a mixture of ash, urine, pest repelling plants e.t.c) and also when storage, processing and cooking/preparation are all without chemicals, then that food will be derived from an organic GM-crop (or Genetically Modified-Organic). Negative Attitudes, misperceptions, misconceptions, misrepresentations, concocted “alternative facts”, academic machinations, NGO-activism, traditional norms, some religious beliefs, superstitions, e.t.c are bottlenecks to good understanding, appreciating and making fair judgement of the science of modern biotechnology/GM-technology. There are such terms or phrases fabricated as “tampering with nature”, “tinkering with nature,” “copying” or “competing with God,” e.t.c have over time been labelled against this useful science. But also to guard against any possible abuse or misuse of the science of modern biotechnology/GM-technology, there must be Biosafety regulation via laws, institutions and regulatory mechanisms, hence the need for Uganda Parliament to pass the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill into law. Simple and clear! Just like there’s potential to abuse or misuse any technology e.g. vehicles, guns, computers or broadly (ICTs), aircrafts, even chemicals have regulations and directions for their application in addition to governing the use of some tools e.t.c.

  6. Jonan Twinamatsiko

    Ndugu Ofosu you are misguided by anti-GMO activism to the extent of sounding an alien on planet earth. The alienated statement, “If Africans should grow crops to feed her people then we should maintain or go back to our style of Farming. Which is organic..!!” is evidence that no one should associate oneself or dare to rely on your forceful, false and misguiding submissions.
    The population has unprecedentedly increased in the last decades and nothing is yet to halt her increase but lives on constant resources of land, water and land fertility. The 7.5 billion population global estimate with Africa’s 34 million people; present the figure of the mass that you propose to go “back” and sustainably feed on their ancient style of farming. It evidently visible that the stressed farming area can no longer feed this population using the old farming methods.
    Whereas remaining organic and conventional farming is appropriate and “cultural”, it is important to avoid phobia for scientific, realistic and ideal information that propels nations, regions and the global to appreciate the urgent need to adopt and advance technologically. The public court shall decree that genetic modification- a technological advancement poised as part of the solution to renowned challenges caused by changing dynamics of population, climate change and others, SHOULD be embraced naturally and misinformed activism deserves a deaf ear.

    Kwame you further argue that “Let’s practice a farming system that supports and improve soil quality” and yet you contradict by trashing GM crops, which completely shows how much you are ill-informed about the matter in the subject. May be to help liberate you mind on this aspect, some GM crops enhance soil fertility by enhancing efficient use of soil nitrogen e.g rice.

    Indeed, whereas biotechnology isn’t a panacea, it remains an indispensable technology which even people that have been misguided by short-lived selfish motives shall benefit from.

  7. Maybe I should make things clear. Personally I am again’t GMO’s because My research suggessts to me that organic food is better for our health and organic farming is better for our environment. Seeds belongs to nature not to Agro-chemical companies like Monsanto,Dow-DuPont,Syngenta etc. There are variety of means to increase crop yields to feed the growing population…Personal opinion though

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