Are genetically modified food crops a trap for Uganda?

With vast unopened argicultural land in the neighbouring DR Congo and South Sudan, half the potential for production of organic produce has not yet even been reached in this region of Africa.

Wednesday May 28 2014

A farmer tends to his bananas. While it has

A farmer tends to his bananas. While it has been argued that biotech crops could help farmers overcome challenges in food production, this goal could probably be attained without these crops. FILE PHOTO 


The year is 2064, one Hasiyo living in Mazimasa Sub county, Butaleja District, wakes up to a new day. As a farmer, he has plans to purchase seed for the upcoming season.

While he got a good harvest in the previous season, the maize variety he grows can only be grown once. He therefore has to take a loan from the Village SACCO to fund the purchase of seed. The price is astronomical with a kilogramme fetching an average of $10 (Shs25,000 at current rates).

High cost

Hasiyo relishes his days as a child when his parents used to save some of the previous season’s harvest of maize for planting in the new season. All he hears now is that those varieties that regenerate are now extinct.
Maize seeds are now made in a laboratory under patented technology from a private company in US thus justifying the high cost of seeds.

The private company that “owns” the seed technology put a levy on every seed sold and collects its rental dues from the franchised local laboratories in Uganda.

Broken promises

In fact, legally no one is supposed to improve those seeds without express authority from the American company moreover after signing an agreement to pay royalties.

Hundreds of kilometres away in Kampala, Dr Mutekanga, a leading practitioner in the medical field, is spending sleepless nights battling client ailments that were never that common in his youth.

He has an endless list of clients suffering from multiple chronic diseases and conditions like autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, among others.

In the farmlands of northern Uganda, Ms Olel, a successful maize farmer is now faced with the emergence of a new strain of superweeds that are resistant to the herbicide that she has regularly used in her GM (genetically modified) maize.

Apparently, the benefit she had been given for using the maize was that it could withstand high levels of herbicide concentrations thereby guaranteeing the death of weeds before the plant.

Due diligence
Unfortunately, weeds like any living organisms mutate and will always find a way to overcome life-threatening situations. This is costing her more money to deal with than she had allegedly been convinced she would save by adopting the GM maize.

The above are scenarios of where Uganda is heading if the GM crops are to be embraced without due diligence.

The goals of those private players fervently pursuing the GM crops agenda are veiled under seemingly innocent milestones like ending global hunger by increasing production.

As an eye opener of what is coming ahead, one of the world’s leading GM seed producer has an active policy of ensuring that all farmers using its seeds do not replant them.

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