“Prohibitive fines and punishment being suggested by some groups will deter innovation in the technology."
A principal state attorney in the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has called for flexibility in the drafting of the National Biotechnology & Biosafety Bill 2012.
The bill that has already been tabled in Parliament is still under scrutiny, with groups calling for amendments especially in relation to fines and penalties.
Harriet Ityang was presenting a paper ‘Understanding the Scope and Relevance of the Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill’ at a media BioCafe at the Uganda National Farmers Federation conference hall in Nakasero.
She said the bill should be designed to spur innovation rather than curtailing it.
“Prohibitive fines and punishment being suggested by some groups will deter innovation in the technology,” she said.
“It does not make sense.”
Another guest at the Biocafe, Prof. Ogenga Latigo, a pest entomologist and MP-elect (Agago North), called upon Ugandans to have faith in the local scientists.
“Me as a scientist would like to give assurance that we would not do anything that is not in the interest of Uganda,” he said.
A researcher inside a biotechnolgy laboratory at the National Crops Resources Research Institute, Namulonge. (Credit: Tony Rujuta)
Uganda plant breeders working at national institutions are using genetic engineering to breed crops that are resistant to pest and disease. Others have had their nutrition value enhanced.
The main programmes are on bananas, cassava, maize and rice. Plant breeders at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories at Kawanda have already bred a banana resistant to Banana Bacteria Wilt using genetic engineering.
Their colleagues at the National Crops Resources Research Institute, Namulonge have also bred a cassava resistant to Cassava Brown Streak Disease at the National Crops Resources Research Institute, Namulonge.
The monthly media café is organised by the Science Foundation for Livelihood and Development (SCIFODE). It is aimed at closing the media gap between scientists and media.
Ityang said drafting of the bill was a fulfillment of the Cartegena Protocol of which Uganda is a signatory.
The protocol calls countries to put in legislation the handling, and use of living modified organisms, also known as genetically modified organisms, as well as their transportation.