Approval for trials of genetically modified (GM) maize has been granted by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, Daily Monitor has learnt.
The confined field trial is to test whether the GM maize can withstand adverse climate conditions as well as diseases.
When contacted on Monday, Dr Godfrey Asea, the project implementer, confirmed the developments.
He explained that the trial, which is due to start soon, will focus on the tolerance of GM maize varieties against insects and drought.
This means that if the tests succeed as expected, the case for commercial transaction and mass consumption of GM crops, particularly grains, will gain further momentum amidst opposition from several quarters.
The approval for the trial was endorsed on January 15, according to a copy of a correspondence which Daily Monitor has seen.
It reads in part: “The National Biosafety Committee (NBC) of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) Cap 209 of the Laws of the Republic of Uganda hereby approve an application for a confined field trial of genetically modified maize…”
National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), one of the six National Agricultural Research Institute under the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro), will be charged with the implementation of the one year project.
NACRRI is mandated to conduct, carry out research and knowledge generation for beans, cassava, cereals, horticulture and sweet potatoes.
The correspondence also indicates that the application to conduct the confined trial was thoroughly reviewed and decision reached after wide consultation and eventual consensus.
“The NBC having conducted a thorough risk assessment, having considered the safety issues, risk mitigations options available, and other concerns identified, by Consensus, approved the application…” the letter adds.
The confined field trial has been approved for a period of one year from the time the research permit is issued by UNCST. Any replantings beyond that period must be approved by NBC.