A section of Civil Society Organisations has welcomed President Museveni’s refusal to assent to the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012.
In his latest objection to the Bill, the President expressed disappointment that many of the critical issues he had raised in the earlier objection (December 2017) had not been fully addressed in the revised Bill.
“The issue of GMOs and genetic modification of our seeds, livestock and now, I hear GMO mosquitoes, touches not only on science, but agriculture, ecology, food and national security and indeed the sovereignty of our nation. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that we proceed with caution and include the necessary safeguards in this law,” Museveni stated.
In a letter to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, the President proposed that the Bill is problematic because it does not indicate that the inventor of genetic materials must be held liable for any harm that their products could cause to community.
The President further recommended that the proposed law should address the matter of mixing GMO materials and non-GMO seed materials.
By this, Mr Museveni wants parliament to clearly spell out isolation measures for greenhouses and isolation distance applicable for persons or organisations involved in genetic material research and production.
A Wednesday joint statement that was presented by Ms Barbara Ntambirweki, a research fellow under the Trade, Innovations and Biotechnology Policy Programme at ACODE, says that Parliament should be considerate of the impact of GMO materials on Uganda’s farming system.
She said that Uganda is a good source of organic products, which comparative advantage in world trade, has to be protected.
She concurred with Mr Museveni who argued that the GMO bill should not treated strictly as a science issue but also as a socio-economic and political issue since it affects agriculture, health, trade, environment and national security among other issues.
Ms Ntambirweki wants MPs to clearly include a clause on benefits-sharing so that GMO inventors can share their proceeds with local communities in Uganda since the country is the custodian the genetic materials being modified.
Mr Henry Nixon Ogwal, the Director Fundraising at Action Aid, says it is paramount that parliament respects the opinion of the president and citizens who are sceptical about some aspects in the GMO draft law.
He said that it’s not reasonable to argue that hunger and malnutrition that is affecting some parts of Uganda is due to lack of the GMO law.
The GMO Bill seeks to provide a regulatory framework that facilitates the safe development and application of biotechnology, research, development and release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).