3 December 2012

Uganda: Scientists Push for Bio Tech Law

Kampala — Scientists have warned that if the law is not implemented, the country will continue loosing opportunities to overcome agriculture production constraints that could be addressed using bio technology.

"The bio technology and safety law has already transformed agriculture in some developing countries as it streamlines the kind of Genetically Modified (GM) materials tolerable in the country", said Dr. Yona Baguma head of Bio sciences center, National crop Resources Research Institute (NACRRI) during a bio safety study workshop held in Kampala recently.

Bio technology refers to use of living organisms and systems to modify useful products in agriculture, food production and medicine. Stakeholders complain that since the bio tech and safety law was approved in 2008, the bill has never been moved.

Yona blames this on the weak leadership structures and reluctance in supporting research directed towards effective use of GM materials in the agricultural sector.

The need for Bio tech law in the country came as a result of importation of maize suspected to be GM crop that caused fear among scientists since they expected that the crop would cause negative impacts on the environment.

The policy was therefore advanced by Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) to provide for safe application of bio technology to counter the uncertainty regarding use of new genes.

"We need the law in place to facilitate the development of regulatory frame work for GM crops", explained Dr. Theresa Sengooba of Program for Bio safety Systems (PBS).

Theresa says if the law is implemented it will greatly impact the economic development of Uganda as farme rs will have a variety of options regarding which seeds to use in production.

Scientists confirm that different from hybrids, farmers will be able to replant GM seeds.

"GM seed varieties of maize and beans will be able to germinate well if replanted" said Dr. Godfrey Asea head of cereals program at NACRRI.

He however expresses worries that ignorant farmers may start using GM materials illegally with the delay of legislation as some seed companies have started trading in GMs.

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