Wednesday September 7 2011

Scientists join lobby for biotechnology law

By Joseph Miti


Scientists, policy makers and other groups working to advance biotechnology science for national development have formed an association to add momentum in their push for the Biotechnology and Biosafety law.

The group said the absence of the law, which has stayed at drafting level for over eight years, has denied the country an opportunity to exploit several advantages of the technology.

While launching the Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) in Kampala last Friday, Mr Erostus Nsubuga, UBBC chairperson, said the coalition would enable the group form a strong unified voice that will call for fast-tracking the role of biotechnology in improving livelihoods of Ugandans. “For years, many people have been individually pushing for the enactment of the law with no success. We have now discovered that working individually will not yield results,” Mr Nsubuga said, “Working together will help us move mountains.”

Biotechnology is the use of biological processes, organisms, or systems to manufacture products intended to improve the quality of human life. It’s a crosscutting technology needed in health (manufacturing drugs) and agriculture among others.

Although Uganda has made much progress in biotechnology research, it is yet to benefit from the technology like many African counties, including Kenya. The Bill was developed by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) eight years ago and modified in 2008, after Cabinet approved the policy in the same year.

However, Dr Kisamba Mugerwa, who represented State Minister for Planning Matia Kasaija at the launch, told the group that the Bill is in its final stages for tabling before Parliament. The absence of the law has also hindered the adoption of genetically-modified crops (GMOs), a technology believed to revive the country’ agriculture once embraced.