Sunday May 22 2016

Agricultural activists demand changes in GMO proposed law



Agricultural activists opposed to the introduction of genetically modified foods have asked Parliament to stay the passing of the controversial Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill.

The activists say the Bill, which is currently before Parliament, ought to address the risks and dangers paused by GMOs to the environment and human health.

“The Bill in its current form doesn’t cater for views of ordinary farmers. We believe agro-ecological practices such as organic farming, soil conservation and biodiverse gardening are solutions to food insecurity, rural poverty and environmental degradation, not introduction of GMOs,” said Ms Bridget Mugambe, Africa’s contact person for Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA).
“It (Bill) should be withdrawn and redrafted. We really need a law that will not deprive our farmers of their right to grow food based on agroecology,” Ms Mugambe added.

This was part of the resolutions passed by the activists from 20 countries at the closing of a retreat in Masaka District this week. The activists converged to discuss the impact of GMOs and alternative best farming practices to achieve food security.

Dr Jennifer Astone, the executive director of Swift Foundation in the USA, said GMO seeds and foods are dangerous and unnecessary.
“We find it troubling that a country (Uganda) which is fourth in the production of organic foods in the world and first in Africa opts for the unknown,” Dr Astone said.

“Instead of opening Uganda to GMOs, we urge policy makers to support small farmers such as the families we have visited here in Masaka District to produce food for their homes, local markets and international organic markets,” she added.

Mr Henk Hobbelink, the coordinator of Grain, an international NGO supporting small -scale farmers, said their research showed GMOs cannot co-exist with other crops of the same species without the risk of contaminating them.
“This contamination would have serious implications for small-scale farmers.
For instance, it would endanger the indigenous seeds that these farmers have developed over centuries and which they trust and know,” he said.

The Bukoto East MP, Ms Florence Namayanja, who was the chief guest, told the participants she would not support the passing of the Bill and called for support to farmers, NGOs and activists in the struggle.