OVER 30 local government leaders from nine districts in central Uganda asked to be given genetically modified crops developed by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) while the country waits to pass a biosafety law. The officials—Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs), district chairpersons, agriculture and production officers, and Resident District Commissioners (RDCs)— were on a biotechnology sensitisation workshop at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI).
They also visited the National Livestock Resources Research Institute which is currently working on a genetically engineered tick vaccine. The workshop was organised by the Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) on February 27. The CAO Nakaseke district, Badru Sentongo Waliggo, wondered why NARO is not releasing GMO products yet there is no law regulating them. His remarks summed up his colleagues’ sentiments: “Farmers in my district are frustrated by losses due to cassava brown-streak disease (CBSD) yet cassava resistant to this disease is already available.
Why don’t you release these resistant varieties as we wait for the law?” he asked. Uganda, like all other countries conducting agricultural biotechnology research, cannot commercialise biotech crops in the absence of a national biosafety law. Cassava resistant CBSD, bananas resistant to bacterial wilt and potatoes resistant to late blight are some of several biotech crops that have developed by NARO scientists.
In his closing remarks, Mathias Kigongo, Buikwe District chairperson, rallied his colleagues to work together with NARO to ensure the requisite regulation that will permit the commercialisation of GMOs is passed.