The article presents information on matters regarding biotechnology use in agriculture, why it is regulated worldwide, and why Uganda should expedite legislation. Additional information, clarifications and questions can be obtained from UBBC at the contacts below.
Why should Uganda enact a law on biosafety?
Uganda already has a National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy (2008). A law is needed to guide implementation of this policy and is currently at drafting
stage. The Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MFPED) and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) are responsible for this bill process.
Is modern biotech regulated in other countries?
Modern biotechnology is regulated by all countries using the technology. Uganda is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international
agreement which aims to ensure safe handling transport and use of products of modern biotechnology. All parties to the protocol, including Uganda, are
required to take appropriate legal, administrative and other measures at national level to implement their obligations under the Protocol.
The proposed biosafety law is one important step to comply with international obligations, as well as ensure responsible use of the technology in Uganda
What is the urgency of having this law enacted? The Government of Uganda, through the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), is already conducting research on crop plants produced
through modern biotechnology. This research aims at improvements that overcome chronic problems such as insect and disease epidemics, drought
stress, and malnutrition. A law is required before the improved varieties resulting from biotechnology can be made available to farmers. Many farmers in
African countries and trade partners are already using products of modern biotechnology. Since our borders are porous, a law is needed to guide
access and use of such products. Globally, sectors such as health (vaccine technology), environment, industry and trade are already using products of
What will the country lose if this law is not enacted? Uganda will continue to lose opportunities to overcome challenging agricultural production constraints that could be best addressed using this technology.
This technology has already transformed agriculture in developing countries such as India and South Africa.
What will a law on biosafety offer? This law is needed to ensure and assure safety in the use of the technology, empower technical competence for the regulatory process, and promote
informed and participatory decision making by all users.
What is the government’s stand on the use of biotechnology in Uganda?
Uganda stands for safe and responsible use of biotechnology for national development as provided for by the National Biotechnology and Biosafety
Policy 2008. The Government has invested substantially in biotech R&D for more than ten years including training of scientists, construction of state of
the art biotechnology laboratories and funding development of improved food crop varieties such as banana and cassava with resistance to diseases.
Which Institutions are involved in regulating biotech in Uganda today?
The UNCST, which is a government agency within the MFPED, is currently the Competent Authority for matters of biotech regulation (biosafety). Other agencies with roles to regulate biotech are the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Water and Environment, the Ministry of Health, the National Environment Management Authority and the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, among others.
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