MPs accept Museveni’s proposals on GMO Bill

Thursday November 08 2018

KAMPALA. Legislators on the Parliamentary Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation have changed their positions on the GMO Bill and considered proposals suggested by President Museveni, Daily Monitor has established.
This comes after the President declined to sign the Bill into law in December 2017, citing lack of clarity in the legislation.
Parliament had earlier on October 4, 2017, passed the Bill into an Act entitled the “Biosafety” Act, 2OI7.
The President in his four-page December 21, 2017 letter expressed concern that the law had in the first place not been clearly named, saying “Biosafety” means “genetic engineering.”
Mr Museveni also questioned the fate of ancient crops and livestock with unique genetic configuration that could be endangered with new scientific innovations if not well protected by a legal instrument.
“These products have got specific genetic make up which our people have developed for mellenia through selection; using the new science of genetic engineering, one may add an additional quality - drought resistance, quick maturing, disease resisters etc,” Mr Museveni’s letter read in part.
He said whereas GMO innovations were welcome, the law needs to be clear and take into account the efforts of original developers.
“This law, apparently, talks of giving monopoly of patent rights to this adder and forgets about the communities that developed originate material. This is wrong,” Mr Museveni said.
He also made a number of other recommendations, including clear labelling for GMO products, protection of the consumer and the fact that the law need not provide room for cloning of humans.
In a fresh report to Parliament seen by Daily Monitor, the committee has accepted to go by the President’s recommendations.
The report is due for debate today. Regarding the name of the Bill for instance, the MPs report that “the committee reconsidered this concern and found it necessary to align the title to the contents of the Bill.”
The proposed name contained in a draft Bill is “The Genetic Engineering and Biosafety Act, 20l8.”
The committee also agreed with the President’s directive that “the ministry responsible for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries should work out modalities where all indigenous plant and animal varieties should be kept, uncontaminated with any Genetically Engineered Organism (GEO), for future use if there is any crisis within the modernisation efforts.”
The lawmakers observed that there are already plans by the ministry to have in place, community based gene banks to cater for what the President highlighted as the need to appreciate efforts by ancient communities.
The committee also provided for the containment of confined field trials in green houses to prevent genetically modified seeds and related materials from being randomly mixed with indigenous ones. The new Bill also prohibits human cloning from genetic engineering.
However, whereas the President advised that the use of poisonous and dangerous bacteria as inputs in genetic engineering must never be allowed, the committee emphasised that “this may not be avoided [but] safety measures have been provided for in the Bill to ensure that there is no danger to plants, humans, the environment and animals.”
If the new changes are adopted by Parliament, the President will have one more chance to sign the Bill into law and should he still decline, then Parliament will simply convene and pass it into law.