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Experts warn against discarding Bio-Technology bill
According to Dr. Agona, the modern biomedical science of making vaccines relies on the same molecular biology tools that are used to create genetically modified organisms.

The debate on Genetically Modified Organisms was recently re-ignited after President Yoweri Museveni refused to give his assent to the National Biosafety Act of 2017

 

The various debates also showed that most Ugandans have a generally negative attitude towards GMOs and they also mostly refer to them in the context of agriculture. 

 

Many are unaware of the role GMOs play in other aspects of their lives such as the treatment of diseases and the manufacture of medicines.

 

Dr. Ambrose Agona is the Director General of the National Agricultural Research Organisation. He says that GMOs are already a part of many Ugandans’ lives.

 

Dr. Agona says every Ugandan who has been immunised and vaccinated against any disease has been exposed to Genetically Modified Organisms.

 

According to Dr. Agona, the modern biomedical science of making vaccines relies on the same molecular biology tools that are used to create genetically modified organisms.

 

It is against this background that Agricultural scientists in Uganda found it necessary to apply the same methods to crop and animal husbandry in order to increase disease resistance, enhance crop yields and improve nutritional content.

 

Dr. Agona says Uganda has already made milestones in identifying a gene from the green pepper that will be used to fight the Banana wilt.

 

However, the science Dr. Agona is referring to will remain confined and not fully utilized until a law prescribing its safe application is in place.

 

The National Biosafety Act, which was passed by parliament last year was meant to address some of the concerns raised by people like Dr. Agona but the President refused to assent to it citing some of the misgivings he had with specific clauses.

 

The Bufumbira East Member of Parliament, Dr James Nsaba Buturo, is one of the legislators against the passing of what has come to be known as the GMO bill.

 

The president is concerned about the protection of indigenous crops and animals but agricultural scientists say his concerns were addressed even before the enactment of the bill.

 

And as the debate on GMOs rages on, scientists believe politicians have highjacked their role and this might stifle scientific innovations that the country needs for it to transition to a middle income country by 2020.