Tuesday January 23 2018

Civil society call for amendments to GMO Bill

Ms Agnes Kirabo, ex

Ms Agnes Kirabo, executive director Food Rights Alliance 

By PAUL TAJUBA

KAMPALA- Civil society organisations have proposed an amendment to the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012 compelling importers and exporters of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to incur costs in case they cause damage to human beings or the environment.

Ms Agnes Kirabo, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance, said yesterday in Kampala that without proper safeguards, importers and those intending to farm GMOs, may recklessly contaminate indigenous crops.

“Whoever introduces GMOs should be liable for the damages caused, redressing the damage, restoring the environment and compensation [of victims] as it is in the Oil and Gas regulation,” Ms Kirabo, who represented five other organisations, said.

President Museveni declined to sign the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012 into law after the legislature had passed it last year.

In his December 21 letter to speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, the President asked Parliament to clarify, among other issues, its title, patent rights of indigenous farmers and sanctions for scientists who mix GMOs with indigenous crops and animals.

Proponents of the Bill say allowing the new technology will help the country address pests and diseases, drought and nutrition deficiencies in crops.

However, opponents say GMOs may have side effects on the environment.
Also, since GMOs do not re-germinate, there are fears that the country will become dependent on seed manufacturing companies every season.

President Museveni while declining to sign the Bill into law, said Parliament had to clarify among other issues, its title, patent rights of indigenous farmers and sanctions for scientists who mix GMOs with indigenous crops and animals.

“The European Union does not import GMOs from third world countries and if our crops are contaminated, where are we going to sell our crops yet EU is our biggest market?” Mr Edward Mukiibi, a soil scientist asked at the conference in Kampala.

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