By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/Umoja Standard.
Kampala, Uganda: Uganda’s Consortium of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Tuesday took a position against Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill 2018.
At a Press Conference held on Tuesday at Hotel Africana, Kampala, CSOs aimed at re-affirming their position on the Bill, defending their right to seed and food sovereigninty.
Important to note.
It should be noted that in 2018, Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni denied to ascent to the Bill that had been passed by Parliament claiming that some clauses within it were not clear and was returned for revision.
In his letter to Speaker of Parliament by then, he sought to understand patent rights of indigenous farmers, and sanctions for scientists who mix GMOs with indigenous crops and animals.
He sought Parliament to clarify on other aspects of genetic engineering such as setting out the boundary of the technology to crops and animals with no crossover to human beings.
On 14th, October/2022, a section of MPs, including Mr James Nsaba Buturo, Dr. Emmanuel Otaala, and Ms Betty Chelain Louke, held a press conference in rebellion following the possible plans to lift the ban on genetically engineered seeds in the country.
Like President Museveni and the latter legislators, these sought that the proposed Bill be thoroughly revised clause by clause, if possible, involve the general public to also contribute to its formulation.
CSOs that included Caritas Uganda, Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Uganda, Pan-African Women Organization (PAWO), Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), SEATINI Uganda, Uganda National Association of Community Occupational Health (UNACOH) and others spearheaded by The Uganda Farmers Common Voice Platform (UFCVP) showed total opposition to the proposed Bill calling it a disaster to our local food and human health.
Counsel Barbara Ntambirweki, Lawyer at Africa Technology Assessment Platform (AfriTAP) reads a statement on behalf of CSOs Consortium on Tuesday at Hotel Africana. Phpto by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
Presenting the joint positing of CSOs on Tuesday, Counsel Barbra Ntambirweki from Africa Technology Assessment Platform (AfriTAP) stressed that CSOs strongly implore Members of Parliament to be keen while redrafting the Bill in order for it to equitably benefit all Ugandans.
She stated that the Bill initially aimed at developing and applying of genetic engineering and the release of genetically engineered materials but says, this cannot effectively work out if lives of Ugandans are not protected.
She mentioned that if not well revised, it will be a disaster to our indigenous seeds and phasing them out completely adding that it will spark a lot of unwanted and dangerous diseases amongst the population.
Counsel Ntambirweki continued to highlight that short of thorough revision, it will be a disaster to soils, general environment and food security. ‘Genetically engineered seeds can’t stay past one harvesting season that may cause untold famine in future’.
It should be remembered that on 29 January 2000, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a supplementary agreement to the Convention known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
The Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.
It establishes an advance informed agreement (AIA) procedure for ensuring that countries are provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions before agreeing to the import of such organisms into their territory.
The Protocol contains reference to a precautionary approach and reaffirms the precaution language in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
The Protocol also establishes a Biosafety Clearing-House to facilitate the exchange of information on living modified organisms and to assist countries in the implementation of the Protocol.
Counsel Cynthia Muhirwa the Legal and Advocacy Officer at Caritas Uganda and The Uganda Farmers’ Common Voice Platform gives a rejoinder on the statement. Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
Counsel Cynthia Muhirwa, the Legal and Advocacy Officer for Caritas Uganda- a development arm of Uganda Episcopal Conference/Catholic Church and The Uganda Farmers Common Voice Platform (UFCVP) sought that the Bill shouldn’t bind Ugandans rather provide a platform for individual Ugandans and organizations who want to keep organic not to be contaminated by GMOs.
“As UFCVP, we believe the Bill should be inclusive in nature so that those who are interested in growing organic food don’t get contaminated with GMOs”. Counsel Cynthia.
“Since we are working towards reviewing this Bill, the issues of contention that have been mentioned here should be taken into consideration”. She added.
She informed that they have been in the GMO campaign since 2012, ‘We are lucky that President Museveni has been on our side and we have not had a law that still has gaps, therefore we should look forward to a country that provides safe food to the current and future generation’.
This comes at a time when neighboring Kenya has just uplifted the ban on Genetic Engineering Bill with which Uganda shares market.
*At the moment Office of the Prime Minister is charged with redrafting the GMO Bill.