Schools to teach biotechnology

Saturday July 20 2019


By Michael J. Ssali

Finally the Ministry of Education and Sports has endorsed a new curriculum for the agriculture course unit that requires students in middle secondary school to be trained in modern biosciences including modern biotechnology applications.
The news which was also published by the online Crop Biotech Update (July 10, 2019) is proof that acceptance of modern biotechnology applications in agriculture is increasing in Uganda which is believed to have the largest number of scientists doing agricultural GM research in Eastern Africa.

Modern biotechnology is already taught at university level which further indicates widening national acceptance of modern biotechnology.

It is also clear that we mean to take full advantage of the potential benefits of the knowledge and skills, otherwise what would be the point of introducing them into our education system? The news has come at the time when only a few weeks ago National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) along with Uganda Bioscience Information Centre (UBIC) had begun efforts to create a vocabulary of simplified scientific terms to improve communication about modern biotechnology.

The two organisations and selected science journalists converged at Mukono Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute to translate some key scientific terms into simple English words.

The idea is to make it easier for the general public to understand modern biotechnology and its big potential contribution to the development and promotion of crop production especially in today’s era of climate change, population explosion, depleted soils, and incurable crop diseases, among other farming challenges facing the country.

We will, therefore, soon get used to such terms as “improved crops” where before we would hear and use “GMO”. Chromosomes will now be referred to as “a package of DNA” while confined field trials will be called “researchers’ gardens.”

The effort to make it easier to understand biotechnology spearheaded by Science Stories Africa (SSA) communicator, Patricia Nanteza, has also been taken to the National Theatre recently, where scientists, mainly from Naro have participated in telling simple stories carefully packed with biotechnology simplified terms to ordinary folk. Part of the reason for laxity to embrace biotechnology in Uganda has been inadequate understanding of the subject.