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GMO bill: a case of a cart pulling the horse

Last week parliament passed a law that specifically regulates the creation, development and application of biotechnology.

The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012 was first read in parliament in February 2013. In simple terms, if it becomes law, this bill will provide for the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

From the onset, this bill provoked a lot of controversy and a bevy of pro-GMO scientists put up a spirited fight against those opposed to it. A number of multinational corporations involved in production of GMOs began a subtle public relations offensive.

They funded several MPs, journalists and scientists alike to go to countries where GMOs had been a ‘success’. When these returned to the country, they did a great deal of propaganda, sometimes verging on personal attacks against those that opposed some of the provisions in the bill.

Whenever an article emerged in papers questioning the urgency of the use and spread of GMOs, it was met with immeasurable hostility. Proponents spoke as if science and, particularly research about GMOs, was foolproof.

They reasoned that the world’s population was expected to expand, yet the amount of farmland is shrinking. For that matter, they argued that biotechnology was the only way to feed that growing population since more yields are harvested from less land.

The clincher was that GMOs mean cheaper and more food to fight hunger especially in such poor countries as Uganda. They further argued that if farmers in Uganda adopted this science, they would cut costs for production and realize better revenue.

However, scientists were not honest to equally tell the MPs and the entire world the financial and legal ramifications of adopting GMOs. For instance, most ordinary farmers (not commercial farmers) cannot afford to buy seeds whenever it is planting time.

What GM seeds actually do is that they lock the farmer and seed and fertiliser entrepreneur in unconscionable contract. The GM seeds do not give a chance to farmers to harvest and create or preserve some seeds (as it used to be in olden days) for the next planting season.

Just like computer scientists make money by creating the need to further insulate oneself against harmful malware by introducing new antidotes such “super” antivirus for a fee, so will be the case with GMOs.

The farmers or users will be inflexibly tied to the controls of these seed producers for solutions and thereby create an infinite market for their products. Will that really solve poverty in Uganda? Will that make the lives of Ugandans better? I have my doubts!

This bill has been passed at a time when many people world over feel uneasy about GM foods.  And it is not only about food. We have to look at everything from animal welfare and the economics of the food industry and safety.

The concern is that while the bill has come up with some penal sanctions and policing agencies, we are embracing GMOs without proper studies on their environmental and health impact.

The lack of a trusted society of scientists in this field means that Ugandans may be used as a huge laboratory to test how GMOs behave in our bodies and environment. By the time we realise the real impact of GMOs, it may be too late.

What happened when we embraced structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) which were crafted, marketed and imposed on Uganda as the panacea for Uganda’s economic problems? We ended up in a deeper hole before experts came to just say sorry!

As a consequence, we are stuck and perpetually tied to the World Bank and its affiliates to solve our economic problems. Further, there have been bad times when medical drugs that were believed to be good ended up creating insurmountable medical puzzles on humans and the environment.

However, while the bill has tried to incorporate the spirit of biosafety enshrined in the various conventions to which Uganda is a signatory or party such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits, this spirit is likely to be defeated because Uganda does not have the human resource to ensure enforcement of the provisions of the bill.

All enforcement agencies supposed to ensure that before GMOs are released on the market are properly labeled as such or to ensure that disposal of GMOs into the environment meets the competent authority’s standards, are likely to face the same hurdles as Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) or National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

UNBS’ efforts to fight counterfeit products on the market are miserable. Equally, Nema is more or less like a poor man’s dog, which keeps barking at a bone-wielding thief but never enforces the boss’ commands because of conflict of interest.

So, the law may have been improved with safety measures, but Uganda is not ready to embrace GMOs.

Author is a director at The Observer.

Comments

+1 #1 Nuwamanya Ephraim 2017-10-09 09:14
Quoting you on this "What GM seeds actually do is that they lock the farmer and seed and fertiliser entrepreneur in unconscionable contract.

The GM seeds do not give a chance to farmers to harvest and create or preserve some seeds (as it used to be in olden days) for the next planting season". I think you are not right on this at all.

What about clonally propagated crops like cassava and banana. Would it be the same situation??. I am sure farmers here can use their seed! So sure!

What about GMOs that carry the potential to efficiently utilize available minerals and nutrients, would they need more fertilizer??.

And may be the other question, Do you understand the difference between GMO and hybrid? May be if you get this right, then some of the fears raised here can be addressed. Thank you
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-1 #2 Nuwamanya Ephraim 2017-10-09 09:25
On the issue of enforcement of the law, I think I concur with you.

However, we have a problem already at hand. With some unregulated GMO products already on the market! What are we going to do with such without a law?

You also stated that scientists have been sponsored to go and see where such technologies have worked, if you concur with this, why have they worked there?, may be that should be the subject of the day rather than discouraging some efforts!

Finally, what if such technologies work as they have already worked in some of those countries, would you still encourage Ugandans not to embrace them?

I feel we need to regulate what we do not know by having the frameworks and provide for means of testing it scientifically, that is a way of development and learning! But if we hide our heads in the sand, then we may wake up to find ourselves already overtaken by events.
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-1 #3 Akot 2017-10-09 19:58
Devleoped countries are opening markets for BIO products all over cities-towns-villages...& Uganda is talking of GMO?

People in Europe run to buy food imported from developing countries becuse they know these are BIO products!

No developing country will be able to see products to Europe is they go for GMO!

Even energy in Europe is being transformed into healthy/clean one & they are getting rid of inscticides used in agriculture too!
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0 #4 Akot 2017-10-09 20:09
Nuwamanya Ephraim, thanks!

The so called scientists behind GMO are bogus destructive demons like dictators & want to destroy developing countries without leadership, like Uganda!

Why not, GMO has been rejected overwhelmingly in Europe & they are looking elsewhere to destroy lands where the people have no means to bring them to justice!

I live in a town where BIO products shops are increasing & people run to buy good natural food from the Tropics: casava-banana plantain-sweet potatoes-rice-Nile Perch-simsim-peanuts...!
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-1 #5 Akot 2017-10-09 20:22
Nuwamanya Ephraim, thanks!

Brazil is today regretting this so called technology-science because it destroyed thousands of acres of land that used to produce naturally but have now become so dry & unproductive!

Kenya embraced this science but found later they had no seeds to replant & German co that lied to them told Kenyans they can buy seeds from Germany to replant: of course Kenyans had no money for this!

French politicians just went in fields to cut down experimental crops & others that managed to defend their fields could not sell products later because their experimental fields contaminated fields near!

Any law maker who wants to help Uganda can only do so through Bill that gives National Education to ALL children so that the country has the right people in posts!
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+1 #6 josh 2017-10-10 15:36
I see people yapping about removal of age limit as if us, our children and grand children will be fed on that paper.

to me actually this is the worst day of our country. i have been to TZ and seen how controlled seed systems work.

One thing that blinds us is to think this will be a level field for farmers and GM multinationals.

One actually needs to first appreciate their financial clout and the money they are willing to spend on their campaigns and scheme, which ultimately is to control the food chain in 30 years.

And let no one be fooled about regulation, that is just a hopeless retreat. So they swiftly passed it when 'no one was looking...' and busy with the age limit.

I keep musing that the biggest problem is not M7, but rather the inebriated and deluded obsession with him by our leaders and population.
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0 #7 Akot 2017-10-10 20:44
Quoting josh:
I see people yapping about removal of age limit as if us, our children and grand children will be fed on that paper.

One thing that blinds us is to think this will be a level field for farmers and GM multinationals.

... they are willing to spend on their campaigns and scheme, which ultimately is to control the food chain in 30 years.

And let no one be fooled about regulation, that is just a hopeless retreat. So they swiftly passed it when 'no one was looking...' and busy with the age limit.

I keep musing that the biggest problem is not M7, but rather the inebriated and deluded obsession with him by our leaders and population.


Thanks!
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-1 #8 Akot 2017-10-10 20:56
josh, thanks!

These fools in Ugandans are not even aware that developed c untries have rejected GMO & are now getting rid of insecticides used by farmers too!

Uganda without leadership & without people well educated, is perfect ground to experiment what has already been done & REJECTED in developed countries becaus they saw how destructive to soil/environment this evil strategy to controling food chain is!

Supermarkets in developed countries have opened stands for BIO products from developing tropical countries inorder to compete with small traders who aare doing good business as people want to eat healthy food!

Even cosmetic industry has gone BIO/Natural!

Ugandans should NEVER EVERF VOTE MPs again because parliament is helping the demon destroy the country completely, leave alone handing it to museveni!
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-1 #9 Akot 2017-10-11 19:24
Pius Muteekani Katunzi,

Why do Ugandans live in their own world unaware/unconcerned of what goes on in the rest?

- People Unite all over the world against dictators-bad rulers & throw themout.

- Even N.Koreans Unite around their demon dictator.

- But Ugandans stay divided against their common enemy!

- The rest of the world, even those who blindely went for GMO today regret & hope their destroyed once rich lands will, in time recover if left uncultivated for a chile.

- Europe rejected GMO & are going for BIO products.

But Ugandans stay divided, MPs pass bills to make GMO destroy rich Agriculture land & render it barren without even normal reproductive seeds!

All that matters is "museveni gets life time presidency & Uganda becomes experimental ground for destructive farming rejected elsewhere"!
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-1 #10 Akot 2017-10-12 20:03
Pius Muteekani Katunzi,

Why are Ugandans letting museveni throw/lock them out of today world?

Yet this world that ignores Ugandans abandoned to the mercy of the worse dictator they helped consolidate & rules through tribalism, are waiting for oil to start flowing & they will share it with the demon,while Ugandans will be left/thrown out of their tribal lands!

When will Ugandans wake up, when the demon is owner of the counry & it's too late?
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