Uganda parliament passes biotech law

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THE long-awaited National Biosafety Act of 2017 has been an voted into law by the Parliament of Uganda recently.

Biosafety Bill 2017, previously known as the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012, was passed into law on Wednesday, bringing an end to years of campaign and counter campaigns by supporters and opponents of biotechnology.

The process of introducing a law to regulate modern biotechnology started way back in 2008, following Uganda’s accession to the Cartagena protocol.

However, the bill faced strong opposition from civil society groups who cited Uganda’s alleged huge market for organic products in Europe as facing the threat of expulsion, among other erroneous claims on safety, damage to the environment and soil fertility.

Scientists have hailed the move as a monumental step that gives them assurance that their efforts spent in laboratories will not go to waste.

According to The Sunrise, a Ugandan news portal, up to 15 biotechnology products are in different stages of the trial. The passage of the bill is likely to help Uganda claim its place in Africa as one of the countries at the forefront of agricultural research.

The enactment of the law sets the stage for the many products still under confined field trials at research stations to proceed to final stages of research such as farmer field trials as well as tasting studies, before they are allowed to be commercialised.

Some of the most advanced products of biotechnology by Ugandan researchers include bananas resistant to the devastating bacterial wilt, maize resistant to the stem borer as well as the fall armyworm and potatoes resistant to the late blight.

Other crops in advanced stages of research include Cassava, Rice, which is considered critical to Uganda’s food security.

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The Petri Dish is malaysia’s first dedicated science newspaper. Through The Petri Dish we aim to engage the public on the latest developments on biotechnology.