Sunday January 28 2018

Farmers should embrace technology

By Michael J. Ssali

We came to learn about a month ago that President Museveni had referred the Biotechnology and Bio-safety Bill back to parliament for further debate.
He was reportedly concerned about some issues that according to him were not well clarified in the bill.
His refusal to sign the bill at that time was welcomed by many anti-science activists and some MPs that are now preparing to ensure it is not passed this time.
The truth however is that the president’s strong support for science and innovation is well known.
About 10 years ago he commissioned a modern biotechnology laboratory at Kawanda for the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) to carry out agricultural biotechnology research.
NARO is mandated to conduct research related to national farming challenges, including control of crop and livestock diseases, crop and animal improvement, among others.
The government and donors have since then been funding biotech research in various NARO stations across the country.
The president has often blamed parliament for delaying to debate and pass the Biotechnology and Bio-safety Bill. Who has forgotten his brilliant 2015 World Food Day speech in support of agricultural biotechnology that was also captured on u-tube?
Last year on World Food Day in Rubanda District, the Minister of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, Vincent Ssempijja, urged farmers to embrace biotech crops.
In October last year Uganda hosted an international conference of scientists organised by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) during which the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Elioda Tumwebaze, and Vincent Ssempijja assured delegates of Uganda’s commitment to agricultural biotechnology and the passing of the Biotechnology and Bio-safety Bill into law.
Through biotech research NARO has come up with some solutions to the crop diseases and harsh climatic conditions that are killing and reducing our main food crops like bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, and Irish potatoes, maize, and rice. Our president is an accomplished farmer to whom none of the mentioned issues is new. It is very likely he will later sign the bill when the clauses he queried are streamlined.