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Rubihayo warns of restrictive biotech law

By Christopher Bendana

Added 10th February 2018 10:47 AM

Rubihayo wondered why the Government had invested significantly in biotechnology training and equipment while at the same time it was legislating unconducive environment

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Rubihayo wondered why the Government had invested significantly in biotechnology training and equipment while at the same time it was legislating unconducive environment

PIC: MPs from northern Uganda during a tour at the National Laboratories Research Institute Kawanda. (Credit: Christopher Bendana)

TECHNOLOGY | AGRICULTURE

KAMPALA - Prof.  Patrick Rubihayo, a biotechnologist at Makerere University, has advised the government to desist from making laws that put scientists in a fix.

He said harsh penalties in the National Biosafety Bill as being proposed by anti -biotech enthusiasts will deter scientists from doing any work.

“They will sit down and just earn a salary,” he warned.

The warning comes at a time when civil societies opposed to genetic engineering are pushing the Government to increase the penalties scientists should face in case of any eventualities as they carry out biotech research.

Parliament passed the National Biosafety Bill in October. However, President Yoweri Museveni deferred the Bill after he raised a number of issues that included the concerns of conservation of indigenous species.

Uganda has already made headways in genetic research.

Scientists at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) are breeding for resistance against pests and diseases, nutrition enhancement and drought tolerance using the technology.

A banana resistant to the virulent Banana Bacteria Wilt has been bred at the National Laboratories Research Institute Kawanda as well as a cassava resistant to the cassava brown streak disease at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) Namulonge

Other advanced successful genetic research has been on Water Efficient Maize for Africa at NaCCRI, NEWEST rice for efficient nitrogen absorption and utilisation also at NaCRRI, and Irish Potatoes where breeders at Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI) in Kabale district have bred an Irish potato resistant to late blight disease.

Rubihayo wondered why the Government had signed the Cartagena Protocol. The Cartagena Protocol is an international agreement that compels countries to make laws.

The Cartagena Protocol calls countries to put legislation in place to ensure the safe development of genetic modified organisms.

“Sometimes we sign things we don’t know,” he said

Rubihayo also wondered why the Government had invested significantly in biotechnology training and equipment while at the same time it was legislating unconducive environment. 

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