Activists have praised Uganda’s decision to stop genetically modified crops, just like Kenya five years ago.
President Yoweri Museveni declined to sign the country’s National Biosafety Act until it is amended to protect indigenous food varieties.
He said MPs must gazette specific areas where GMOs can be cultivated to stop possible contamination of local varieties.
Uganda becomes the second East African country after Kenya to have a GMO law which is not fully functional. The Environment and Food Sovereignty, a local lobby, say the Ugandan law, in its current form, will eliminate the indigenous plants, animals and birds.
“If it had become law, all the indigenous species would disappear,” said the statement by Frank Muramuzi, executive director, National Association of Professional Environmentalists.
Kenya banned importation and commercialisation of genetically modified foods in November 2012 when a scientific journal linked them to cancer. In October 2013, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia appointed a 12-member taskforce headed by Prof Kihumba Thairu.
It was tasked to review scientific literature and data on the effects of GMOs to animal and human health.
The report has not been adopted yet, but the government allows biotechnology research to continue in Kenya. Explaining his decision to reject the country’s new law, Museveni also spoke of food sovereignty.
“This law apparently talks of giving monopoly of patent rights to its adder and forgets about the communities that developed original material. This is wrong,” Museveni said last month.
Slow Food International, another lobby with offices in Nakuru and Kampala, claimed the introduction of GM varieties compromises local control of the food system.
“To ensure future generations can benefit from food biodiversity, farmers all over the country must support, preserve and defend their local food cultures from the invasion of patented genes,” said Edie Mukiibi, vice-president of Slow Food International.