MPs and members of Food Right Alliance during the meeting on GMOs at Hotel Africana in Kampala on Tuesday. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA
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By Isaac Imaka & Mercy Nalugo
Monday, November 25
National Resistance Movement legislators will Monday discuss the controversial National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012, a piece of legislation seen as intended to promote the use of genetically modified foods.
In a caucus meeting, which is expected to be presided over by President Museveni, the MPs will debate the Bill and form a common position which they would support when the draft legislation returns to the floor of the House.
“It is going to be one of the first important consultative meetings to discuss that subject matter and we expect a very candid, honest and heated debate,” Mr David Bahati, the caucus deputy chairperson, said.
He added: “It is a very important piece of legislation because we have so many GMOs that are unregulated. We have many health fears and at the same time, there is a problem of crop disease like banana wilt and lack of seedlings. So, this discussion is crucial to find a way forward that will address the issues on the two sides of the coin.”
The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012 was tabled in the House by the chairperson of the Committee on Science and Technology, Mr Denis Hamson Obua as a private members bill.
The Bill’s object is to provide for development and general release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Uganda and to create a regulatory framework to facilitate safe development and application of biotechnology.
Ever since it was tabled, the Bill has attracted a heated debate with its proponents pushing to have it passed hastily to facilitate research on genetically-engineered crops in a bid to improve agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition and those against it questioning its rationale.
However, Mr Bahati says: “We will have scientists from different government organs to make appropriate presentations so that our national leaders can make decisions based on information and knowledge.”
Busiiro East legislator, Mr Medard Ssegona (DP), says the Bill is controversial and supported by implausible arguments from government.
“My people (constituents) are opposed to it. Government tells us it is going to fight hunger but the problem is not that Uganda does not have food. It is that government is not organised in terms of food security. The issue is not GMOs but being organised in food storage and security,” he said.
He added: “It requires a bigger scientific study on how it is going to affect the crop variety in Uganda especially the indigenous plant variety and how they are going to affect the sales. It is not something we must wash over.”
Forum for Democratic Change general secretary and Serere Woman MP, Ms Alice Alaso also call for wide consultations so that the MPs can appreciate the dangers of GMOs and appreciate the advantages of the Bill.
“Without addressing the concerns of the possible effects of GMOs, this Bill might be a hurried piece that will not benefit Ugandans,” she says. “NRM needs to be very objective and inquisitive and not be driven by orders from above. They should put Ugandans first.”