Law on biosecurity to regulate scientists’ work

Wednesday June 4 2014

By Lominda Afedraru

As Parliament makes consultations on the biotechnology and biosafety Bill, there is another Bill in offing that focuses on biosecurity and bioterrorism.

Scientists drafted the bill with the help of lawyers and are now consulting stakeholders before it is presented to the Attorney General.
Dr Maxiwel Otim Onapa, deputy executive secretary, UNCST, explained during a consultative meeting, held in Kampala, that both Bills are different. One addresses safe use in application of a technology, the other covers broader issues related to food safety, use of reagents in laboratories, animal health, and wildlife.

“When the biotechnology and biosafety policy was passed in 2008, it only handled issues around the agricultural research meaning there is still a gap we need to address,” Dr Onapa said.
Uganda is party to several international agreements pertaining to biosecurity. Therefore, the states that are party to these conventions have the mandate to prevent and prohibit proliferation of biological weapons.

A number of countries have particular laws and lists of pathogens and micro-organisms to implement their obligations, which Uganda lacks.
Ms Harriet Ityang, one of the consulting lawyers, says the new Bill proposes the ministry of defence to work with those of health, agriculture, environment and wildlife and UNCST to coordinate this. It will ensure the implementation of safety and security standards.