Uganda is the only country in Africa doing biotech crops Confined Field Trials (CFT) with no Biosafety law in place.
This precarious position is contained in a recent report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) an organization that tracks biotech crops across adoption across the globe.
Uganda is currently testing five biotech crops in confined field trials. They are bananas, cassava, maize, rice and potatoes. They are being tested at the National Crops Resources Research Institute, Namulonge (NaCRRI) and the National Agricultural Research Laboratories, Kawanda.
Ten countries including Kenya have both CFT and Biosafety Laws; they include Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Malawi, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan. Kenya has since approved open cultivation of the Water Efficient maize. The same maize is still in CFT in Uganda.
The report lists another 10 countries that have Biosafety laws but no CFT taking place, Ethiopia, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tunisia.
Only three countries in Africa have commercialized biotech crops. They are South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan.
The ISAAA 2015 report reveals 28 biotech countries growing crops on 179 hectares
A new entrant, Sudan which grows cotton has raised its acreage from 20,000ha in 2012 to 120,000ha in 2105.
Dr Barbara, Zawedde, the coordinator, Uganda Biosciences Information Center, a National Agricultural Research Organisation information hub at the NaCRRI says that the Biosafety law is long overdue.
She says the bred varieties have shown resistance to pests and diseases, which is important if fighting food insecurity.
She adds that the law is important to help detect any GMO spillage from outside the country. Ugandans are also known to pick crop varieties that show high yields and such varieties may be GM.
She also cites Kenya which has approved open cultivation of the Water Efficient maize.
“It is important for us to have legislation in place to monitors GM development in the country,” she said,
The United States of America (70.9m ha), Brazil (44m ha) and Argentine (24.5m ha) are the leading producers of biotech crops according to the report. In Africa, South Africa leads with 2.3mha under cultivation. The main crops are cotton, maize and soya (soybean).
The breeders are waiting for the passing of the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill before they can release the varieties to the farmers.
Some countries had made new legislation to genetic engineering while others like the United States of America used exiting legislation (Plant Protection Act and Food and Drug Administration) others like Sudan commercialized with no law.