By Prossy Nandudu
Civil Society Organisations are calling for a new law that will regulate genetically engineered products (GMOs) to take care of emerging challenges in the agriculture value chain.
Emerging challenges include the porous borders that have allowed some GMO products into the country such as cereals in form of cornflakes, soy sauce coming from S. Africa, which grows genetically modified soybeans, Aromat powder, soups, in many supermarkets, among others.
The other challenge is the trade between Uganda and neighbouring countries, which are now growing and trading in GMO products such as Kenya and South Africa.
Another challenge, which the group believes, wasn’t addressed in the proposed law is liability, where they want the burden of proof to rest entirely on persons such as researchers involved in the production of GMOs if it causes harm among others.
The group adds that the current law doesn’t have clear safety management mechanisms and that the indigenous communities who have been custodians of genetic material haven’t been catered for in the proposed law.
They made the call on Tuesday, November 22, 2022, while reaffirming their position on the Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill, in order to defend the right of farmers to seed and food sovereignty, at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
Barbara Ntambirweki, a representative of the CSO explained that despite the rigorous exercise on the Bill, the above concerns haven’t been addressed hence the need for an all-encompassing law to regulate GMOs.
“Without addressing them, the law will have established a permissive system for the introduction of GMO products into the country with no safeguards to human health, biodiversity and socio-economic challenges,” said Ntambirweki.
Their call follows a section of Members of Parliament, led by Jams Nsaba Buturo and Dr Emmanuel Otaala, who opposed the proposed regulation of GMO products.
The proposed law in question, also known as the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012, was introduced on the floor of Parliament in 2013.
It was later re-introduced in the 10th Parliament after consultations and was passed into the Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill 2018.
It was sent to the President for approval. The Bill hasn’t been approved yet.