By David Lumu
Denis Magola, a farmer in Mityana district is a very bitter man. Not because of bad weather or failure of crops to germinate.
Magola’s nightmare lies in what he calls the ‘venom’ that the Plant Variety Protection Act has unleashed into the country’s lifeline—agriculture, which according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, employs 72% of the 36 million Ugandans.
“The law removes our rights on food we grow and we don’t have a right on the seeds we produce. This means that we have no right to re-plant or sell seeds without the authority of the plant breeders,” he said.
Magola planted maize on three acres but as he waits for the harvest, he is equally disturbed with how to deal with the produce from seeds he purchased from breeders.
In 2014, Parliament passed the Plant Variety Protection Act.
The law gives plant breeders exclusive rights to produce, sell and also license other persons to sell and export plant varieties and reproductive materials of plants of that variety for sale.
“If we do so (sell, reproduce and produce), it will be illegal,” Magola told New Vision Thursday.
To some activists, the law gives a few people powers to the seeds—locking out so many farmers—in the traditional game of agriculture.
To cure this trend, civil society groups represented by the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Food Rights Alliance Uganda (FRA), SEATINI Uganda and Action Aid Uganda yesterday petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging the Plant Variety Protection Act.
“The grant of exclusive rights to plant breeders over reproductive material of plant varieties amounts to privatization of Uganda’s food system and holds common farmers at ransom since seed is at the heart of the food system in Uganda and is the only source of livelihood for farmers,” said Agnes Kirabo, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance Uganda.
James Zeere, one of the lawyers representing the farmers said that: “By petitioning court, we want to balance the rights of farmers and innovators”.
“Plant breeder’s rights should stop at the seed and not the usage of the seed by the purchaser,” he said.
Alex Lwakuba, a commissioner in the department of crop protection and marketing at the Ministry of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries, said that he could not comment on the intricacies surrounding the contentious law.
Activists challenge plant law