Saturday, August 31, 2013

Activists warn Uganda on GMOs

By Michael Odeng

For Uganda to embrace Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is a recipe for disaster for the country, activists have cautioned.

GAIA Foundation International advocacy coordinator, Teresa Anderson, said that opening Uganda’s gates to GMOs will pose an irreversible health and environment risk to the country.

The American activist made the remarks during a workshop at Sanctum Apartment Hotel in Entebbe today Friday afternoon.

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.

“In a global perspective, GMOs in the country reduce agriculture productivity,” she said. She also said that the consumption of MGOs may cause side effects such as cancer and obesity.

Anderson also said that mining reduces agricultural productivity by 40% in a 20km area around the mine. “Miners dig 20 tonnes of earth and rock to get gold hence affecting agriculture.”

She added that about 1bn and 1.4bn 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.  It does not allow replanting and is expensive,” stressed Charles Olweny, VEDCO / FRA advocacy officer.

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

Olweny 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.

Uganda in 2008 passed a law on the use of GMs as the Biosafety and Biotechnology Act permits the use and cultivation of biotechnology crops facilitated by multinational seed companies. The Government has also embraced field trials for various GM crops.

The Government says the regulatory framework will address issues of safety in using biotechnology by providing measures to be taken to minimise risks to human health and environment arising from actual contact with GMOs.

Activists from VEDCO GAIA, NAPE, ABN, Food Rights Alliance (FRA) urged Ugandans to vehemently oppose the Bill since it has 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 Olweny.

In recent times, many countries across the globe have banned the use of GM foods because of the health implications associated with its use. They are Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and Ireland.

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