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Friday, 3 October 2014

Ugandans fight GMO Bio-terrorism : Mbale farmers protest against GMOs

Mbale farmers protest against GMOs



Farmers demonstrate against GMOs in Mbale
Farmers demonstrate against GMOs in Mbale Town on Tuesday. Photo by Denis Mukungu 
By  Fred Wambede

Posted  Friday, October 3  2014 at  01:00
In Summary
Farmers in Mbale take to the streets saying if MPs approve the Bill they will face the wrath of voters. 

Mbale- Farmers in eastern Uganda have joined civil society groups in protest against the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country.
In a demonstration on Thursday, protesters said the GMOs and the Bio-Safety Technology Bill, which is before Parliament, will lead to legalising the use of the GMOs.
The farmers carried placards with words denouncing GMOs inscribed on them: “We don’t need GMOs in Uganda”, “Do not damage famers’ livelihoods”, and “GMOs will cost you votes.”
More than 600 farmers from different districts in the Mt Elgon region protested in Mbale Town.
Ms Esther Ofwono, the chairperson of Uganda Voice Farmers Platform, eastern region, said there was no risk assessment carried out to ascertain the effect of GMOs to humans and soil.
She appealed to Parliament to withdraw the Bill, calling it “anti-farmers”. She added that they have collected signatures from farmers to petition the Speaker of Parliament over the bill.
According to the farmers, GMOs cause health complications such as obesity and impotence.



First Read:

Ugandans need a law that bans GMOs, not one that promotes them

http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2013/03/ugandans-need-law-that-bans-gmos-not.html


Ugandan scientists naïve about GMOs


GMO technology will enslave generations of Uganda farmers

The day Uganda Scientists exposed their hypocrisy and naivety about globalization and the GMOs in Uganda: Academics, activists clash over GMO bill

http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-day-uganda-scientists-exposed-their.html

Can GMOs achieve food sovereignty for Uganda?

http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2013/09/can-gmos-achieve-food-sovereignty-for.html

Battle over Mosanto’s GMOs in Uganda : Civil society petition EALA over biosafety Bill



Uganda GMO suicide bill: Open letter to MPs

http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2013/12/uganda-gmo-suicide-bill-open-letter-to.html



Uganda NGOs, lecturers in trouble over GMOs


http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2014/01/uganda-ngos-lecturers-in-trouble-over.html 


Makerere don warns on GMOs
 
 

Publish Date: Jun 27, 2013
Makerere don warns on GMOs
Dr. Giregon Olupot. Photo by Esther Namirimu
 
 
By Innocent Anguyo and Gerard Tenywa

For Uganda to embrace Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is a recipe for disaster for the country, Dr. Giregon Olupot of Makerere University has cautioned.


Speaking at a public lecture in Kampala, Dr. Olupot said that opening Uganda's gates to GMOs will pose an irreversible health and environment risk to the country.

GMO plants or animals contain genes which have been artificially inserted. The highly contestable GMOs include living organisms such as seeds or plants that could alter native plants through cross-pollination.

Olupot who lectures at the College of Agricultural and Environmental sciences was quick to state the most prevalent side effects of consuming GMOs as cancer and obesity.

He added that about one billion and 1.4 billion people were hungry and obese respectively across the globe despite a surge in genetically modified (GM) crops.

“GMOs are not suitable for Uganda’s agricultural system because the country is dominated by small-scale farms and not the monstrous ones required for monoculture of GMOs.  Its benefits are also exaggerated, does not allow replanting and is expensive,” stressed Olupot.


Since GM seeds are patented by the producers, Olupot said Ugandan farmers will be yanked into cyclical poverty because they will have to continue buying seeds from the producers despite the petite output from their small farms.

Noting that GM farming rode on use of pesticides, Olupot warned that Ugandan soils will eventually get riddled by change in soil composition, disruption of natural food chain and massive death of bees.

Olupot called for the shelving of the National Biosafety and Biotechnology bill on grounds that the current version was been pushed by GM seed corporate companies as a conduit to use it as a ploy to flood Uganda with GM products.

Prof Oweyegha Afunaduula, the Principal of Crane Media Institute in Kampala said GMO research in Uganda was been funded by western countries harboring egotistic interest to use food as a political weapon to control Uganda and Africa.


Afunaduula urged Ugandans to vehemently oppose the Bill since it was been drafted in the dark corridors without the input of the public. The Bill is awaiting the second reading in parliament.


“The Bill does not provide for labeling of GMO product thereby stifling informed consent. It does not establish risk management guidelines and schemes,” said Olupot.



He urged Uganda to weigh the trade-related benefits of GMO crops against environmental, ecological, food security, bio-safety and risks of adopting GM technologies.


This is work in progress,” said Harriet Ityang from Justice and Constitutional affairs ministry who said, “Government has drafted a Bill, which should be supported. The comments will help to improve on the bio-safety so that we have a law that addresses most of the concerns.”
Ityang was one of the three guest speakers at the public dialogue organized by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE).


Commenting on indigenous seed and crops with a view of conserving them, Ityang pointed out the Bill addressed bio-safety concerns on research, development and commercialization of genetically modified organisms.


“We have a plant and crop protection Act that addressed conservation of indigenous seed and management of seed banks,” she told the well-attended debate in Kampala.


Ityang reasoned that Uganda’s borders were porous and that if Ugandans push away the bill the GMOs will find their way into Uganda from neighboring countries that are applying GMOs such as Sudan.


Other neighbouring countries are in advanced stages of research and release of GMOs. “Whether you push it away or not it will come back. We should have a law to protect people and the environment,” she said.


Dr. Isaac Ongu, a Kampala based consultant said bio-technology that was discovered in recent years remains the best tool to manage crop diseases such as banana bacterial wilt that are threatening to wipe out banana from Uganda. He also said it offers solution to the development of drought tolerant crops.


“It is good to encourage our scientists to continue developing biotechnology,” he said, adding that if the scientists keep laid back time will come when we need the technology and very far behind our neighbors.


Ityang said the bio-safety Bill recognizes the importance of biotechnology while at the same time it addresses their negative implications. She also says Uganda is a signatory to a convention on Bio-diversity and Cartagena Protocol on modified organisms. 

GMO Bill tabled in Parliament

Publish Date: Feb 10, 2013
GMO Bill tabled in Parliament


By Joyce Namutebi and Henry Sekanjako  

A Bill whose object includes providing for development and general release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Uganda has been tabled in Parliament.


 The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012, which also provides for a regulatory framework to facilitate safe development and application of biotechnology, was tabled by the chairperson of the committee on science and technology, Denis Hamson Obua.


The Private Members Bill initiated by the committee further provides for a Competent Authority, whose functions, if approved, will include approving the development, testing and use of GMO in the country as well as updating the national focal point on matters relating to biotechnology and biosafety.


The Authority will also ensure necessary measures to avoid adverse effects on the environment, biological diversity, human health and on socio-economic conditions arising from GMOs.


It will further prescribe standards relating to development of GMOs advise government on issues of biotechnology and biosafety and coordinate the roles of other lead agencies in relation to handling of GMOs.

State minister of Planning, Matia Kasaija laid on table the certificate of financial implications of the Bill.


The Bill provides for establishment of a national Biosafety Committee which shall be responsible for, among others, advising the authority as well as recommending to it new scientific information on the subject.

A registrar shall keep and maintain a register of biotechnology and biosafety activities, among others.


A person shall not engage in research or general release of GMOs without approval under the law and the penalty for a defaulter is a fine not exceeding Sh960,000 or imprisonment not exceeding twenty four months or both.


Scientists disagree on GMO Bill

Publish Date: Aug 13, 2014
Scientists disagree on GMO Bill
After a heated debate in the house in November 2013, the speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga deferred debate on the Bill so that MPs consult their constituents before considering it.

newvision

By Moses Mulondo

Going by the contradicting views from various stakeholders including disagreements among scientists, Parliament will have an uphill task in refining the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill to especially safeguard the interests of Uganda against the interests of multinational seed giants like Mosanto.

Amidst opposition from fellow scientists, some scientists on Tuesday attempted to allay fears from MPs and other stakeholders on the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill which seeks to legalize GMO products in Uganda.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are animal or plant organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The process of making GMOs is called modern biotechnology or genetic engineering. 
The workshop was the second discourse after another one which was held in the same venue last week.
After a heated debate in the House in November 2013, the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga deferred debate on the Bill so that MPs consult their constituents before enactment.
Responding to the fear of the hidden interests of multinational seed giants, Dr. Yona Baguma, the NARO research coordinator, explained that Uganda scientists have the capacity to develop their own GMO products.
“Uganda has some of the best scientists in the world. Uganda has produced the first banana and cassava GMOs in the world,” Baguma explained.
Justifying the need to have GMOs, Baguma advised the MPs on the science and technology committee to only ensure that stringent measures are incorporated in the Bill to safeguard the interests of Uganda.
Giving examples of various crops attacked by various diseases that are threatening to cause their extinction, Baguma said use of genetically modified organisms to produce seeds that are disease resistant will be inevitable in various circumstances.
But another scientist, Dr. Joseph Okia from Mulago Hospital, said, “We are not opposing use of science to solve problems. Our opposition is to Mosanto and those that represent Mosanto’s interests like Bill and Melinda Gates. We should restrict introduction of GMOs to only our scientists.”
Okia gave the example of Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) as some of the projects involving Uganda scientists which are funded by Mosanto.
Representing pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, Dr. Robert Otto also cautioned Uganda law makers against allowing GMO crops, arguing many of them have devastating effects like outcompeting indigenous species to point of extinction and having toxin which cause allergy to humans.
Otto explained that whereas there are GMO medicines like insulin and penicillin, the GMO crops are not as safe as GMO medicines due to the variation in the purification process. 
Calling for the withdrawal of the Bill, Uganda Youth Platform (UYP) made a presentation warning Uganda against the consequences of allowing GMOs in Uganda.
Citing countries like Sri Lanka, Sweden, Germany, Algeria, Norway, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, Italy, Poland and many other countries which have banned GMO crops, UYP program manager Jude Nkoyoyo requested the Uganda government to establish why most countries have banned GMOs before the Bill can be considered.
UYP leaders asked Parliament to probe science and research initiatives in Uganda to establish the magnitude to which they are being funded and influenced by multinational seed companies.
Dr. Maxwell Otim, the deputy executive secretary for National Council for Science and Technology said, “We have competent scientists who are well equipped to protect Uganda’s interests. Of course GMOs have negative side effects, but we shall have mechanisms in place to test GMOs and ensure that only those that are safe are allowed into our market.”
Speaking as a concerned citizen, Faith Katana from State House gave information on how some individuals behind seed giants said they would be able to reduce the world’s population through biotechnology products like GMOs.
Katana also cited an example of her relative who planted GMO bananas and there was crop failure for the third generation of the entire plantation and no other crop could be successfully grown on the soil.


Also related to this story

GMO Bill tabled in Parliament
Opponents of the GMO bill have a big point to listen to

FAO warns against genetically modified foods
GMO technology will enslave generations of Uganda farmers


Uganda to introduce genetically engineered banana

  http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/-/2558/253272/-/t6a8trz/-/index.html

Posted  Monday, February 19  2007 at  00:00
By ESTHER NAKKAZI

Special Correspondent
Uganda could soon introduce genetically modified bananas after a successful genetically engineered sweet banana variety proved resistant to pests and diseases.
The technology will improve the quality of banana, an important food and cash crop whose production has declined due to diseases, especially the banana wilt disease.
Genetically engineered bananas will also contribute to food security and improve household incomes. Almost 24.5 per cent of Ugandan household’s income is contributed by bananas. Some 70 per cent of farmers grow them as a staple food as well as for brewing local liquor.
Scientists estimate that if the technology is applied to other varieties, the country could save up to $8 billion it is said to have earmarked in the next five years for fighting the banana bacterial wilt disease.
The disease is currently ravaging the country and spreading to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.
The genetically engineered variety was developed by Geoffrey Arinaitwe, a Ugandan scientist based in Belgium who has now applied to the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) for a permit to import it to Uganda.
“The Council has already cleared it for field testing after importation from Belgium.
This innovation will pave the way for research on other varieties to make them resistant to diseases,” said Arthur Makara, the biosafety desk officer at the Council, the country’s leading institution for science, technology and innovation development.
The tested banana type will be brought to the Kawanda Research Institute (Kari), which has just completed construction of a greenhouse to field test bananas for resistance to bacterial wilt and black sigatoka fungal disease, said Andrew Kiggundu, a plant biotechnologist at Kari.
The bacterial wilt is highly destructive, wiping out at least 90 per cent of the fruit on the trees it affects. When it affects a tree, it becomes poisonous to both humans and animals.
Scientists say the commonest way the disease spreads is through bees, which pick up pollen from one banana and transport it to another.
Mr Kiggundu said more crops have been earmarked for testing before the end of this year at Namulonge Research Institute and the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro).
Other crops that are slated for field testing at Kari are genetically modified cassava, which is resistant to the mosaic virus, sweet potatoes rich in Vitamin A content and BT cotton.
“The varieties we have developed have increased resistance to pests, are nutritive and fast growing,” said Mr Kiggundu.

GMO Bill not withdrawn - Minister

Publish Date: Sep 10, 2014
GMO Bill not withdrawn - Minister
Deputy Chairperson Science and Technology Committee of parliament, Annet Nyakecho Okwenye, chairing a session of a consultative workshop on the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012 at the Prime minister’s building in Kampala August 4, 2014. PHOTO/Maria Wamala
newvision
 
By Paul Kiwuuwa

The minister of state for Finance in charge of Planning, Matia Kasaija, has refuted claims  that government has withdrawn  the National Biotechnology and Bio safety Bill, 2012 (BSBT). He said government fully supports the Bill.



A Bill whose objective  includes providing for development and general release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Uganda was tabled in Parliament for the first reading last year by Ajuri county MP Denis Hamson Obua.


Minister Kasaija on the same day laid on table the certificate of financial implications of the Bill.

Appearing before the Committee on Science and Technology Wednesday at Parliament, Kasaija said consultations are going on to ensure different players give in their contribution before the Bill is passed into the law.


He revealed what he called the government position “Government has not withdrawn the BSBT 2012 Bill saying the NRM caucus had already discussed and considered the bill, but still wanted the input of other stakeholders, particularly critics.”


"The Bill has nothing sinister, it is just intended to promote and regulate the use of science and bio- technology, government want to expedite the process of passing it into a law.”Kasaija added.


He explained “Absence of a law to regulate the high rate of unregulated (GMOs) products in Uganda will impact a lot on people’s health.


He added “Uganda will become a dumping ground for GMO products if there is no law regulating the different importers of the products. Science and technology is the way to go; any country that does not think scientifically is always left behind. So, the [BSBT] bill is one of the much-needed laws," he said, before urging MPs to consider the Bill as soon as possible to close the legal vacuum and promote biotechnology.


 Committee chairperson Anthony Semmuli said BSBT Bill, 2012, if passed into law will provide for a regulatory framework to facilitate safe development and application of biotechnology.”


He stressed that once passed into law, the Bill would boost food production through the use of improved, drought and disease-resistant seeds and other planting materials. If it is approved by parliament, Uganda would join Rwanda and Kenya, among other countries that have already passed BSBT laws.


 Otuke Woman MP Annet Nyakecho said "If it becomes a law the Bill is not trying to kill our indigenous seeds but there is need to improve on them. I don't want Uganda to import food 10 years from now, but if we don't do something, we shall be importing food, “she said.


The Bill creates an authority in the National Council for Science and Technology that will test and approve all GMO seeds first, before rolling them out to farmers for safety reasons.


 If approved, into a law will include approving the development, testing and use of GMO in the country as well as updating the national focal point on matters relating to biotechnology and biosafety. Ends


The Authority will also ensure necessary measures to avoid adverse effects on the environment, biological diversity, and human health and on socio-economic conditions arising from GMOs.


It will further prescribe standards relating to development of GMOs advice government on issues of biotechnology and biosafety and coordinate the roles of other lead agencies in relation to handling of GMOs.



Ugandan scientists differ on proposed GMO law 



By Joint Report

Posted  Saturday, July 13  2013 at  14:49
In Summary
  • The National Biosafety Bill is currently before parliament as scientists, civil society and lobby groups pull in different directions over the rationale of enacting the law.
  • The Bill intends to introduce biotechnology seeds and allow commercial release of GM products from ongoing research into the markets.
  • Anti-genetically modified organisms lobby is questioning the rationale for the law, while proponents want it passed quickly, to allow the country move forward with the biotechnology agenda.

A raging debate over the proposed genetically modified law has split Uganda down the middle.
The National Biosafety Bill is currently before parliament as scientists, civil society and lobby groups pull in different directions over the rationale of enacting the law.
Anti-genetically modified organisms lobby is questioning the rationale for the law, while proponents want it passed quickly, to allow the country move forward with the biotechnology agenda.
Pro-GMO activists argue that Uganda needs the biosafety law to facilitate research on genetically engineered crops in a bid to improve agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition. According to the proponents, biotechnology will help the country improve the nutritional values of food crops by fortification. For example, the recently released orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are enriched with Vitamin A.
In addition, they argue that biotechnology will improve production because the available traditional seeds are not high yielding owing to replanting.
“To achieve sustainable food security we will need different techniques, including organic, conventional, possible hybrid systems as well as biotechnology, to produce more food at affordable prices,” said Dr Andrew Kiggundu, head of bioscience at Kawanda Research Institute.
The Bill intends to introduce biotechnology seeds and allow commercial release of GM products from ongoing research into the markets.
President Yoweri Museveni recently urged Members of Parliament to quickly pass the Bill.
“We have seen GMO crops help farmers in Burkina Faso and South Africa, and we believe that the technologies being developed here by our scientists will help many farmers transform from peasantry to commercial,” said President Museveni during a recent biotechnology conference in Kampala.
Current legislation only permits the research component, which is done in laboratories and confined to field trials. Tabled in parliament in February this year, the Bill has generated a storm among top scientists, civil society and the media.
Passing the law will put Uganda at par with other East African countries —Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda — that have biosafety laws.
According to anti-GMO group, Uganda does not need both biosafety law and genetically engineered products to improve food production in the country.
Report by Halima Abdallah and Isaac Khiisa


GM crops or not? Farmers undecided as the debate on biotech bill heats up


MPs and other stakeholders at a Bt cotton field trial in Kasese.
MPs and other stakeholders at a Bt cotton field trial in Kasese. Cotton is one of the crops in which biotechnology mechanisms have been used to deal with the problem of pests. Photo by Lominda Afedraru 
By Lominda Afedraru

Posted  Wednesday, April 10  2013 at  10:37
In Summary
In the face of most local varieties losing their productivity and a number facing extinction, the appeal of better performing GMOs is obvious. But concerns and controversy is making the choice uncertain for the farmers.

As the public debate continues about the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, which is before Parliament, representatives of farmers’ groups are in dilemma over which option to take.

Some see adopting improved varieties over the traditional ones as a better choice, while others are uncomfortable with the idea of adding a clause on labelling genetically modified crops as it will drive consumers from purchasing their products.

Some experts feel the bill needs to be passed into law but admit the draft bill needs to be improved upon because it has loopholes.
Genes and patents
Dr Chris Bakuneeta of Makerere University, while presenting a paper, “What are GMOs?” to members of Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum-Uganda (ESAFF), said, “There is no problem for scientists to improve crops, animal and poultry using biotechnology but the challenge is, is it going to have negative effects on human health or not?”
He added if the bill is to contain that component of GMOs, then it should be owned solely by Ugandans including the farmers. This is because multinational companies want to control the patents of these products by owning them.
“These companies are free to give us genes to improve our crops but should not say Uganda’s cassava, banana, sweet potatoes, maize and rice varieties belong to them by patenting it for the farmers to keep buying the seeds,” he asserted.
But Ms Eleanor Kambuga, a Luweero-based farmer, said convincing farmers not to grow improved varieties is a waste of time because it is becoming difficult to access seeds of local varieties as their yield is very low.
“These discussions are good but traditional seeds are no longer seen in the market especially for maize, rice and ground nuts. Others may be vegetatively propagated crops like banana and coffee where propagation is done using traditional methods,” she observed.
Farmers are interested in income generation to improve their livelihoods and so if the improved crops are high yielding, it will be hard not to grow them. But she has a problem with labelling GMO products saying it will drive away consumers from purchasing these products and the farmer will be the loser.
Royalty-free
Dr Giregon Olupot, also from Makerere University, said the bill lacks a number of factors in favour of the farmer. A case in point is the penalties described in some clauses, which he described as minimal to those involved in the GM product development.
The regional coordinator for the Bio-safety System programme in Uganda, Dr Thereza Sengoba said Monsanto, a company engaged in producing and providing a number of genes for scientists to improve these crops, is interested in important global crops like soy bean, cotton and maize among others.
“Everyone is aware of the high yield potential of GMOs and returns in terms of income. In the case of Uganda where research work is going on in cotton and maize where Monsanto has interest, there is an agreement to get these genes royalty-free meaning after release, farmers will be able to acquire the seeds at the usual price like any other seed purchased as public good,” she explained.
Sengoba added though Monsanto has interests in GMOs, it is also interested in the traditional staples consumed in Uganda, so the company will not override the national interest. On the penalties, she agreed it has to be discussed and reviewed for a consensus.
As the debate on the biotechnology and biosafety continues, opinion remains divided into for and against. For the farmers, it is likely to remain a dilemma of choice of which is better suited to meet their needs.