Uganda finally seems to have woken up to the ongoing scams involving Genetically Engineered Organisms (GEOs), commonly known as GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

After years of having been infiltrated by GMO crops like Maize, Tomatoes and Bell Peppers as well as Papaya from the usual culprits like Monsanto or Dow and after having been even contaminated with engineered fish like Tilapia or Catfish, Uganda's leadership called for a stop.

It is not clear if that change comes in the wake of the Monsanto takeover by BAYER, which might want to stop the practices to push bio-safety bills in African countries by means of corruption for the benefit of the multinationals, or if the time has come that Uganda's leadership simply has better insights based on the tireless work e.g. by the African Centre for Biodiversity.

However, the tides are changing in Uganda - hopefully not too late to stop the GEO contamination of the agri-sphere or the aquatic systems.


MPs Side wih Museveni to Block ‘Foreign-Imposed’ Law on GMOs
By Sarah Kagingo

A section of MPs led by Bufumbira East MP and former Minister of Ethics, James Nsaba Buturo have vowed to challenge passing of the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill saying that it promotes use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which are dangerous to Ugandans. Read More: Museveni Wants Law on GMOs Revised to Protect Indigenous Varieties

Their comments come after President Yoweri Museveni refused to assent to the Bill that Parliament passed October last year.

Museveni in a letter to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga dated 21st December 2017, cited eleven reasons why the Bill must be reconsidered by parliament. The President asked that Parliaments reviews some sections of the Act including stipulating of gazetted places where these genetically engineered crops and animals will be placed.

He said that it was wrong to give monopoly to these modern GMOs over Ugandan organic crops and animals and that the law should provide for sustainability of the latter.

Now, legislators who also include Ngora county’s David Abala are blaming Ugandan scientists and some Parliamentarians for falling prey to the powerful GMO lobby in contrast to their peers in developed countries who have rejected GMOs like Netherlands in Europe.

“Ugandan scientists knowingly or not are being used by powers from without to create a climate of suitability for domination of our country and impose various technologies that would serve their interests and not those of Ugandans,” Buturo said.

Buturo noted that the enactment of the Bill means that the indigenous seeds will be phased out and every season Ugandans will have to buy imported seeds. In case of failure to manufacture seeds by foreign companies, food will be scarce, he added.

“Uganda does not need GMOs as a means to achieve food security or even maximum production; Uganda is ranked the world’s second best organic food producer but if GMO bill becomes law, this will gravely undermine the safe organic foods thereby endangering people’s live.”

He also says scientists behind this bill want to make Uganda a home for experiments on animals, humans, drugs and vaccines yet this can never be allowed in more developed countries.

David Abala said that the group is mobilizing fellow legislators to oppose efforts to pass the Bill even before the committee stage.

He argued that if legalized, the use of GMOs is capable of increasing the spread of numerous cancers in the country.

The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill was passed in 2017 in an unclear manner during the plenary without quorum, presided over by Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.

Many local experts in agriculture have previously opposed the idea of embracing GMOs arguing that it is capital intensive (heavily reliant on fertilizers) which local farmers might not afford.

They also say that these modified varieties will negatively affect Uganda’s agricultural exports since some markets like the European Union have harsh policies on GMOs.

---

Museveni Wants Law on GMOs Revised to Protect Indigenous Varieties
By Paul Ampurire

The law is intended to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the safe development and application of biotechnology in the country.

The President wants Parliament to review some sections of the Act including stipulating of gazetted places where these genetically engineered crops and animals will be placed.

He said that it is wrong to give monopoly to these modern GMOs over Ugandan organic crops and animals and that the law should provide for sustainability of the latter.

This is contained in a letter written by the President to Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga on December 21 pointing out his worries and proposals.

“This law apparently talks of giving monopoly of patent rights to this adder and forgets about the communities that developed original materials. This is wrong,” Museveni told Parliament.

He further questions why the law makes reference to plans to have the genetically modified materials (which are drought resistant) used in irrigated areas, not in areas prone to drought.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) refer to any organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.

Genetic modification involves the mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes to create combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

While Museveni acknowledges some of the advantages that these new crop and animal varieties have against the local organic ones, he wants the law to include safeguards in the event that GMOs turn out to be dangerous in future.

“To be on the safe side, they [genetically modified seeds] should never be randomly mixed with indigenous seeds just in case they turn out to have a problem,” the President wrote in his letter to Speaker Kadaga.

He adds that “there should be no cross pollination between GMO seeds and our indigenous seeds” and that the law should clarify that “green houses will be used to prison the pollen of GMO seeds or distances should be stipulated so that there is no mix up”.

Museveni also said that referring to the law as ‘modern biotechnology’ was vague, and proposed that it be termed as ‘genetic engineering’ of crops and animals since that is what it is about.

The President demanded to know whether the Ministry of Agriculture together with National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) have already released some of the GMOs to the local farmers. Doing this without precautionary measures provided by law, he says, could put the farmers at risk.

He has asked that the Ministry and NARO gazette places where all unique indigenous crops and animals will be kept uncontaminated with any GMO for future use if there is any crisis with modern efforts.

Uganda is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol which mandates parties to ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology.

But like the President, many local experts in agriculture have been opposed the idea of embracing GMOs arguing that it is capital intensive (heavily reliant on fertilizers) which local farmers might not afford..

They also say that these modified varieties will negatively affect Uganda’s agricultural exports since some markets like the European Union have harsh policies on GMOs.

----

read also: Seed policy paper: Towards national and regional seed policies in Africa that recognise and support farmer seed systems

Please also sign this petition to stop the approval of Dow’s triple stacked GM maize destined for food in South Africa (and via unscrupulous ex- and importers also for other African Nations).