By Patrick Jaramogi
A Government plan to pass the Bio-safety and Bio-technology Bill without farmers input will hurt the incomes of farmers, Members of Parliament and Civil Society Organisations disclosed.
The bill that is set to be tabled in parliament next month seeks to formalize the use of Genetically Modified Organisms/seeds GMOs.
Uganda is one of those countries that are quickly adopting this technology with field trials for GMO banana, maize, cotton, potatoes and rice currently ongoing at Namulonge and Kawanda Research Institutes.
Uganda has developed a National Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill 2008 and there is a draft Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill Draft 2008 yet to be presented to the parliament. This bill when turned into a law is meant to guide the introduction and use of GMOs in the country.
But MPs and CSOs meeting at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala observed that the bill which they also said had been shielded from the public will not address the escalating food prices.
With the world population currently at the 7 billion, many countries especially in Africa are faced with the serious threat of people dying from hunger.
Uganda alone is expected to hit the 50million mark by 2025. One of the solutions being advanced to deal with the threat of hunger is the advancement of Genetically Modified Organisms/seeds (GMOs) created through a new technology called Genetic Engineering.
“It is very unfortunate that even we (MPs) haven’t had the chance to peruse through the draft bill. This law will affect farmers who are the backbone of this economy, said, Matthias Kasamba MP for Kakutu- (Rakai) . “A lot of things are happening behind our backs with limited access by the public,” he added.
The Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute-Uganda (SEATINI-Uganda) country director Jane Nalunga said Uganda needs to learn how to deal with the market before the bill is passed into law.
“Most NGOs, farmers, consumers and even the policy makers are not aware of the challenges arising from the use of GMOs like the fact that seeds produced through this technology are patented and their introduction is subjected to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that denies farmers the right to save, replant, share or propagate seeds without authority of the patentee,” she said.
Eng. Robert Kafeero (Nakifuuma-Mukono) the Vice Chairperson Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology said the bill will only be allowed to pass the floor of Parliament if it has meaning to the farmers.
“We shall cause meaningful change to the bill before it is enacted. We are concerned about the bio-safety issues,” he said.
He said creating seed security for small-holder farmers is very central in ensuring food security.
Erina Namugambe (Mubende) said under the NAADs programme, farmers are given terminator seeds which are not sustainable. ‘Farmers are not reaping much from the GMO seeds. They are not earning from their produce. This bill should seek to help the farmers more,” she said.
The meeting is a collaboration between with Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM-Uganda), Action Aid International Uganda (AAIU), Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which is being done through Genetic Engineering (GE). The technology involves the production of genetically modified crops whose seeds may not be replanted especially those with the terminator gene.
The CSOs observed that one of the effects of GE technology will be elimination of farmers’ indigenous seeds. The result will be making smallholder farmers dependant on multinational and profit driven companies for the supply of seeds.
Hence, their food production and by extension livelihoods will be controlled by these corporate companies.