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Angina turns guns on genetically modified foods

By Geoffrey Mutegeki

Added 1st November 2016 11:36 AM

Uganda is in the world of agriculture because of the traditional seeds

Gen. Charles Angina, the deputy Chief of Defence Forces, has urged Uganda to tread carefully with Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology since the country may not be in position to handle the potential risks at the moment.

Angina noted that if Uganda fully adopts GMOs it will lose out on its traditional seeds and organic food advantage it has over the other countries in the world market.

"We have to be careful; many countries are running here to buy our agricultural products because they are organic. But if we turn to GMOs we shall be entering a competition we cannot afford," Angina said.

He made the remarks shortly after graduating with a masters’ degree in security and strategic studies from Nkumba University.

"Our organic products have a big market in the European Union and America. We can improve on this and remain competitive. People should be coming here to eat our organic food," Angina said.

He added that Uganda is in the world of agriculture because of the traditional seeds.

"Instead of introducing GM seeds they should improve on our local seeds, but not rush for GMOs. It is more expensive to look after them than our traditional seeds," he said.

He highlighted that seed production will become a benefit of the few who may not even be Ugandans.

Angina explained that there is a lot of work that needs to be done beyond GMOs.

Slyvia Rwabwogo, the Kabarole District Woman MP, who is also a member of the agricultural committee of Parliament, believes that the law needs to regulate GMO's but not adopt them.

"We already have GMOs in our country and the danger is they are not regulated. Much as I don't support them we need to regulate them," Rwabwogo said.

She challenged government to do a lot of research on organic seeds, so that they are not wiped out.

"Government has not done enough to invest in research about our local organic foods and seeds, regarding how to improve them to cope with the current climatic changes" Rwabwogo said.

She noted that GMO production is likely to make seeds expensive, yet Ugandans are used to producing their own cheap seeds.

According to Fredrick Kawooya, a policy analyst and a food rights activist, by allowing for commercial production of GMOs, Uganda would miss out on exploiting the global organic market worth $72b and growing at a rate of 11.5%.

Those behind the GMOs argue that Uganda needs technology which can transform the sector that has been affected by the impacts of climate change and several crop diseases.

Local seeds cannot survive prolonged drought, outbreaks of crop and livestock diseases.

Parliament is yet to pass the GMO law, currently known as the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012 which is before the 10th Parliament

The Bill was first tabled in 2013 however sharp divisions quickly emerged concerning the merits of GMOs.

While we need a law on biotechnology, the current law is too weak as it merely focuses on promotion of GMOs, as opposed to regulating them, with weak checks and balances needed for an effective biosafety system.

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