Foreign firms win with new GMO law

Thursday December 6 2018

A woman sells mangoes at a fish landing site. Accor

A woman sells mangoes at a fish landing site. According to activists, the Bill mainly focuses on GMOs in crops. Photo by Dominic Bukenya 


Kampala. Civil society organisations believe the winners of the new Genetic Engineering Regulatory Act 2018 are foreign companies that have heavily invested in research and development.
According to the executive director of Food Right Alliance (FRA), Ms Agnes Kirabo, with dwindling funding of agricultural research and farmers, local companies involved in agribusiness, have no chance against their counterparts who have since made huge strides in this field (GMO), as a result of heavy investment in research and development.
“We can no longer dance to our own tune now because that ability has been indirectly taken away from us with the passing of this legislation,” Ms Kirabo said while delivering a statement earlier this week.
Speaking in Kampala on behalf of the six civil society organisations, namely: PELUM Uganda, FRA, SEATINI - Uganda, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), ESAFF Uganda, ACODE and Slow Food Uganda, Ms Kirabo further said: “The ability for us to develop our own GMOs is limited because we do not fund our research enough.”
No research funding
In the Budget Speech for Fiscal Year2018/19 delivered in June by the Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija, there was no specific allocation geared towards funding agricultural research.
In an interview with several researchers based at National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), it emerged that most of their research is donor-sponsored.
As a result, it is in the interest of the funder and not necessarily the local beneficiaries here.
They want government to invest in research and development or else dance to the tune of the one who (donor) provides for the funding.
The country director of SEATINI-Uganda, Ms Jane Nalunga, said agriculture should be treated with the seriousness it deserves because without it there is no economy, let alone livelihood.

Critical issues in new law

Clauses: The Liability and Redress Mechanism requires precautionary approach in addressing safety issues. The new law also clearly spells out the principle of strict liability whereby whoever introduces a GMO shall be legally responsible for any damage caused as a result of the product or a process of developing it.
The new law also has a clause to protect rights of communities. This provision protects the right to fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources.