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Makerere don warns on GMOs

By Vision Reporter

Added 27th June 2013 07:26 PM

For Uganda to embrace Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is a recipe for disaster for the country, Dr. Giregon Olupot of Makerere University has cautioned.

Makerere don warns on GMOs

For Uganda to embrace Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is a recipe for disaster for the country, Dr. Giregon Olupot of Makerere University has cautioned.

By Innocent Anguyo and Gerard Tenywa

For Uganda to embrace Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is a recipe for disaster for the country, Dr. Giregon Olupot of Makerere University has cautioned.


Speaking at a public lecture in Kampala, Dr. Olupot said that opening Uganda's gates to GMOs will pose an irreversible health and environment risk to the country.

GMO plants or animals contain genes which have been artificially inserted. The highly contestable GMOs include living organisms such as seeds or plants that could alter native plants through cross-pollination.

Olupot who lectures at the College of Agricultural and Environmental sciences was quick to state the most prevalent side effects of consuming GMOs as cancer and obesity.

He added that about one billion and 1.4 billion people were hungry and obese respectively across the globe despite a surge in genetically modified (GM) crops.

“GMOs are not suitable for Uganda’s agricultural system because the country is dominated by small-scale farms and not the monstrous ones required for monoculture of GMOs.  Its benefits are also exaggerated, does not allow replanting and is expensive,” stressed Olupot.

Since GM seeds are patented by the producers, Olupot said Ugandan farmers will be yanked into cyclical poverty because they will have to continue buying seeds from the producers despite the petite output from their small farms.

Noting that GM farming rode on use of pesticides, Olupot warned that Ugandan soils will eventually get riddled by change in soil composition, disruption of natural food chain and massive death of bees.

Olupot called for the shelving of the National Biosafety and Biotechnology bill on grounds that the current version was been pushed by GM seed corporate companies as a conduit to use it as a ploy to flood Uganda with GM products.

Prof Oweyegha Afunaduula, the Principal of Crane Media Institute in Kampala said GMO research in Uganda was been funded by western countries harboring egotistic interest to use food as a political weapon to control Uganda and Africa.

Afunaduula urged Ugandans to vehemently oppose the Bill since it was been drafted in the dark corridors without the input of the public. The Bill is awaiting the second reading in parliament.

“The Bill does not provide for labeling of GMO product thereby stifling informed consent. It does not establish risk management guidelines and schemes,” said Olupot.

He urged Uganda to weigh the trade-related benefits of GMO crops against environmental, ecological, food security, bio-safety and risks of adopting GM technologies.

This is work in progress,” said Harriet Ityang from Justice and Constitutional affairs ministry who said, “Government has drafted a Bill, which should be supported. The comments will help to improve on the bio-safety so that we have a law that addresses most of the concerns.”
Ityang was one of the three guest speakers at the public dialogue organized by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE).

Commenting on indigenous seed and crops with a view of conserving them, Ityang pointed out the Bill addressed bio-safety concerns on research, development and commercialization of genetically modified organisms.

“We have a plant and crop protection Act that addressed conservation of indigenous seed and management of seed banks,” she told the well-attended debate in Kampala.

Ityang reasoned that Uganda’s borders were porous and that if Ugandans push away the bill the GMOs will find their way into Uganda from neighboring countries that are applying GMOs such as Sudan.

Other neighbouring countries are in advanced stages of research and release of GMOs. “Whether you push it away or not it will come back. We should have a law to protect people and the environment,” she said.

Dr. Isaac Ongu, a Kampala based consultant said bio-technology that was discovered in recent years remains the best tool to manage crop diseases such as banana bacterial wilt that are threatening to wipe out banana from Uganda. He also said it offers solution to the development of drought tolerant crops.

“It is good to encourage our scientists to continue developing biotechnology,” he said, adding that if the scientists keep laid back time will come when we need the technology and very far behind our neighbors.

Ityang said the bio-safety Bill recognizes the importance of biotechnology while at the same time it addresses their negative implications. She also says Uganda is a signatory to a convention on Bio-diversity and Cartagena Protocol on modified organisms.  

 

Makerere don warns on GMOs

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