What you need to know:
- Lilian Anguparu, the Chief Executive of AMFRI farms limited says Uganda risks losing its European Union market if the country embraces genetically modified organisms (GMOs) whose long-term impacts remain unknown, writes Roland D. Nasasira
A late evening meeting to discuss the future of Ugandan agriculture on Friday at Inspire Africa Coffee along Kafu Road in Kampala concluded that Uganda is not ready to embrace genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a reliable means of food production.
Under the theme “From the farm to the plate, featuring the French Ambassador Stephanie Rivoal,” Lilian Anguparu, the Chief Executive of AMFRI farms limited that exports organically certified products said as a country, Uganda should not only look at a sustainable model but also how long its citizens are to live.
“Trying out a system whose aftermath we even do not know is something very risky. Trying out a system where we are so dependent on people or something is not the right way to go. We have to learn from the mistakes which were made by some developed countries. We should not go to where they left it at. In my view, GMOs are not the right way to go because it is going to lead to a lot of seed and fertiliser dependency and all this is money we are talking about,” Anguparu explained.
“If you look at our Ugandan economy, not every farmer can afford that. And yes, if we can afford that and we have to import the technology, for how long are we going to depend on this?” Anguparu wondered.
Rather than take a path that is not sustainable, she recommended Ugandan farmers to stick to what is sustainable.
“It is only about educating people how to do organic farming right and they will get it right,” she said.
GMOs kill the export market
If Uganda goes GMO, Anguparu observed there will definitely be less export to the European Union (EU) because it is a no go zone.
“EU and genetically modified organisms do not mix and this means that the trade of the agricultural product to the European market is gone. We are not only looking at the European market but there could be other countries that fall into the same bracket. That means reduced exports and income and foreign exchange to Uganda,” she noted.
“We cannot control our own food destiny which controls any system, environment and country. Be it political or economic, food is something very key. If somebody is going to control your destiny, which is food, then we would be doing something wrong,” she added.
Agricultural habits in Uganda
Agnes Kirabo, the Executive Director of Food Rights Alliance said agricultural habits vary between the middle class and the elite and so do the perceptions of what agriculture should be.
Also, the perceptions and habits do not match people’s food preferences in that the middle class and the elite are the ones who look out for traditional restaurants, yet they speak ill about traditional farms.
“We are having small and large scale producers who are supposed to be driven by the consumers. They have a challenge of believing in nature, integration and we are not giving them an option. We have a mixture where the middle class and the educated and the urban dwellers are trying to pull the rural away from the direction that produces the food they prefer to eat,” Kirabo observed.
“Unfortunately, the people who are constructing confinements around their homes are not doing any agriculture within their perimeter walls. In the rural areas, agriculture is more interactive and integrative and it is this nature that is sustaining food production,” she concluded.
What is a GMO?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. Most GMOs have been engineered to withstand the direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide.