Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#Uganda govt vows not to allow legislators block #GMO bill

Christopher Kibanzanga, the state minister for Agriculture, has said the government would do all it takes to ensure that parliament passed the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012.

The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012, which is currently before parliament for debate, strives to facilitate safe development and application of biotechnology in farms.
“Any resistance against science in any field in Uganda means that you are only telling your people to remain poor. This technology has been used in many countries and what is funny is that we have GMO products on the shelves of supermarkets,” he said.
Kibanzanga, who officiated at the launch of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2016 report in Kampala recently, added that other East African countries have started embracing GMOs.
Barbara Zawedde Mugwanya, the coordinator, Uganda Biosciences Information Center (IBIC), at the National Crops Resources Research Institute, said agriculture faces numerous challenges, ranging from drastic changes in weather patterns, pests and disease outbreaks, all of which can only be addressed with the help of science.
“There are many methods of addressing low agricultural productivity, including biotechnology,” she said, adding that biotech is mainly applied where conventional technologies have failed to address the problem.
Dr Theresa Sengoba, the board chairperson, Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, said in order to fully exploit the potential of our agricultural sector, there is need to consider adopting this technology where necessary but also to regulate its use and educate the public about it.
She explained that crop biotechnology innovations can help increase food production to address the needs of the growing population.

Antagonists, however, say the growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country will adversely affect Ugandans. They say GMOs will make it hard for so many to farm because the seeds are expensive.
Other common concerns include the loss of indigenous seeds, the failure of the GM seeds and the fear of having Uganda’s agriculture sector being controlled by big seed companies.
However, Mugwanya said the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the European Food Safety Association agree that GM foods on the market are as safe as non-GM foods.
“We are already consuming GMO products in Uganda. These are foods, beverages and drugs. All these products are imported from elsewhere and unregulated,” she said while making a presentation at the event.

The debate over the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill comes a few days after a section of parliamentarians reportedly confessed to receiving bribes from multinational companies to support the bill during the heated National Resistance Movement caucus meeting recently.
The Observer reported last week large companies have in the past organised consultative meetings for the MPs, where each legislator is paid $100 per meeting. There is, however, no evidence to show that the payments the MPs claim they received were a bribe and not simply a small facilitation allowance.

Govt vows not to let MPs block GMO bill


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