Civil society accuses State Minister for Planning of conniving with Monsanto to push "defective" National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill
EXCERPT: [The bill] prioritizes promoting as opposed to regulating the GMOs and facilitates unfettered introduction of GMOs on a massive scale without adequate safeguards for small farmers, their indigenous knowledge, nutrition, and markets.
Minister accused of bribery to facilitate for GMO bill into law
East African Vanguard, May 2, 2016
Kampala, Uganda: Civil Society has accused State Minister for Planning for conniving with Monsanto, an international seed company operating in Uganda to push the "defective" National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012 bill enacted.
The bill seeks, among others, to facilitate the safe development and application of modern biotechnology, designate a national focal point and a competent authority. It is also to provide mechanisms to regulate research, development and general release of genetically modified organisms and related matters.
“It has come to our attention that the youth who were at parliament demonstrating to drive the bill past were mobilized by Bahati (David State Minister for Planning). We highly suspect that money has exchanged hands because the very company has been sponsoring local scientists to push Genetically Modified Organism (GMO),” Joint Energy and Environment Project, advocacy and biodiversity officer, Mr. Kentos Thomas Bakyayita said.
Civil society say Bahati is being used by foreigners to have the bill past to legalize GMO sell that promotes large scale farming at the expense of small holder farmers.
“The Bill does not provide for labeling of GMOs especially for general release on the market, and also lacks a liability clause. It is totally silent on who should be held liable upon damage and risk arising out of the proposed technologies,” said Pelum, advocacy officer, Ms. Marilyn Kabalere.
Awareness creation among key stakeholders on the content and intention of the bill and information on the likely impact of GMOs on Uganda’s economy, human health, food security, environment and Uganda’s seed systems remain inadequate, Kabalere said.
She further explained that the bill uses a good and all-encompassing title "National Biotechnology and Biosafety" to market and regulate only one application of biotechnology, GMOs.
It prioritizes promoting as opposed to regulating the GMOs and facilitates unfettered introduction of GMOs on a massive scale without adequate safeguards for small farmers, their indigenous knowledge, nutrition and markets.
Efforts to have a comment from Bahati was futile as calls to his official mobile phone number 0772484812 displayed on Uganda Parliamentary web site was either made busy or the person who answered the calls said it was wrong number.
Caritas Uganda, public relations officer, Betty Aguti [GMW: said?] the bill fully accords the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNSCT) powers as the competent authority with the mandate to approve the development, testing and use of GMOs in Uganda. “UNCST however, has a conflict of interest here because they play a key role in the promotion of GMOs through, for instance, research.”
The proposed offences and penalties for failure to comply with the law are neither punitive nor deterrent enough to potential offenders and offenders, Aguti noted.
Adding,” The provision for public participation and consultations during the development and general release of GMOs is quite inadequate.”
Pelum Uganda, programme manager, Josephine Akiya said the agriculture sector performance is constrained by absence of an appropriate agricultural extension, post-harvest handling losses estimated at above 40 percent in grains and over 70 percent in fruits and vegetables, poor standards and quality, absence of markets and storage facilities among others.
“With these challenges prevailing, the introduction of GMOs is no solution. Moreover, there are no scientific studies in Uganda to justify the introductions of GMOs supposedly to solve malnutrition as opposed to using more available and accessible means.”
Uganda’s comparative advantage lies in the rich natural uncontaminated bio-diversity, Akiya noted. Adding, “This is what Uganda can offer to global research.” “Economic science only lies in production of organic products. Can we leverage this comparative advantage and we remain competitive, develop our food tourism, achieve the objectives of Vision 2040 and sustain our agricultural and food systems?”
Akiya further explained, “We acknowledge the fact that Uganda should have a law to regulate dealings in GMOs but the bill, in its current form, is inadequate to address the risks that GMOs pose.”
She called for the bill to be withdrawn from parliament and a new one which addresses their concerns be drafted.
“We want a law that regulates GMOs not the one that promotes GMOs,” she said.
Press statement presented and signed by:
1. Action Aid Uganda (AAIU)
2. Caritas Uganda
6. Caritas Kampala
8. Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM Uganda)
9. Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI Uganda)
10. Eastern and South African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF Uganda)