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KAMPALA - A Plan by Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to
produce genetically modified (GM) bananas has stalled due to lack of a
bio-safety law, Dr Kisamba Mugerwa, outgoing agriculture minister has said,
August 2004 by Kikonyogo Ngatya .
Researchers at KARI were planning to produce disease-resistant and highly
nutritious banana varieties using genetic engineering. They hoped this
technology would enable them to control the banana wilt and other related
Last year, President Yoweri Museveni launched an ultra modern bio-technology
lab in Kawanda that will do the genetic engineering. Initially, the
scientists would do genetic engineering for research purposes until their
products get approval before giving them to farmers.
Dr. Kisamba told the visiting Israel deputy ambassador based in Nairobi,
Gilad Millo, while visiting Uganda that the Uganda National Council for
Science and Technology (UNCST) should first put in place the necessary legal
Kisamba noted that as a result of the delay in formulating bio-safety laws,
so would follow the late cultivation of GM crops.
"The banana wilt project need to use this technology but we cannot. There
are no laws to allow us," Kisamba said. He said Uganda, like many other
countries that are signatories to the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety,
needed guiding laws.
The law would among other things, streamline the use, handling, importation
and safety guidelines of GM products. Kisamba said UNCST under the Ministry
of Finance should be moved to the agriculture ministry for quick
decision-making. "We feel the public pressure to deliver GM technology. Yet
we can't push people who are not answerable to us."
The lack of law and guidelines on GM products also casts a shadow on the
introduction of Bio-technologically Modified cotton (BT Cotton) research in
Uganda. Dr Otim Nape, the director general of the National Agricultural
Research Organisation (NARO) said recently that the BT cotton project had
been suspended until a law is in place.
But Dr Z.M Nyiira, the executive secretary of UNCST blamed the delay in
passing the law on "bureaucracy in some circles."
He told a policy maker's symposium in Kampala recently that the council
forwarded the draft bio-safety bill to the Government in 2002.
"We need this law. We needed it yesterday," Nyiira said. He said the
responsibility to pass the law rested with cabinet and the Parliament.
However, at a biotechnology symposium in Jinja recently, Dr Charles Mugoya,
the assistant executive secretary for the UNCST said that a road map for the
formulation of the necessary laws was in place. He, however, said the
council wrote to various ministries for proposals but only one ministry had
"We wrote to permanent secretaries of line ministries concerned with
bio-technology, but only one has given us a feed back," Mugoya said.
He also noted that Uganda was moving slowly towards making necessary laws to
cope up with other countries.
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