Uganda risks compromising the health of its citizens and the environment if Parliament enacts the bio-safety and biotechnology Bill in its present form, a Kenyan specialist on Genetically Modified Organisms/seeds (GMOs) has said.
Uganda is among countries that are quickly adopting the technology with field trials for banana, maize, cotton, potatoes and rice at Namulonge and Kawanda Research Institutes.
If enacted, the law will guide the introduction and commercial production of GMOs in the country. Analysts say foreign multi-national companies would take advantage of the situation to flood the local market and suffocate local farmers.
“Uganda should not fall in a trap like Kenya did. You (MPs) should ensure that government funds sustainable agriculture and slow down on passing this Bill,” said Dr Daniel Maingi, the director Kenya Biodiversity Network in Kampala on Tuesday.
Dr Maingi said Uganda should emulate Tanzania’s regulatory framework on GMOs that has a liability clause that protects its citizens.
He said Africa lacks safety data on genetically modified foods and condemned the patenting of life and the privatisation of agriculture that is threatening to dispossess African food producers of control over their production systems.
However, Dr Maingi’s call was received with mixed reactions by MPs on how to proceed with the Bill that is expected to be tabled soon.
Maracha Woman MP Lematia Ondoru expressed disappointment that the Bill is before Parliament.
“In USA, organic food is very expensive. You have to travel miles to get organic food. This Bill is not ours, it should be thrown out.”
Mpigi Woman MP Sarah Nakawunde and Gomba Woman MP Kyabangi Nakato said the Bill should be dropped and government invests money in research for indigenous crops.
However, Kyadondo North MP Kasule Sebunya said GMOs can only be fought from the laboratory.
“The people I represent in Kawanda and Namulonge have spent more than 20 years researching. As Parliament, we have to find a way to help our people,” he said.
Kasese Woman MP Winnie Kizza called for more debate to educate legislators and farmers to make informed decisions.
“We should not just trash the Bill but give people time to interact and learn more.”