The Chief Executive Officer of Uganda national Farmers Federation (UNFF) Kenneth Katungisa has warned government to take into consideration the indigenous farmers of Uganda before signing the Genetic modified organisms(GMO) bill into law.
“Our view as the farmers’ federation is that GMOs can be looked at as threat depending on the perspective, and in my view the question we should ask ourselves is that have we fully utilized the capacity that we have without needing GMOs? Have we given farmers enough inputs and fertilizers, and extension help? And then we can say that GMOs are a matter of life and death,” he stated.
Katungisa made this statement last Friday at the federation’s head offices in Kampala while launching the farmer’s manifesto urging state actors and all stakeholders to give special attention to the agricultural sector which is a source of livelihood to the majority of the population.
In the manifesto, the farmers want the government to invest in water for agricultural production, easy access to quality agricultural inputs, market access and cooperatives by farmers, and mechanization and agro processing among other demands that they want to be addressed so that 68% of Ugandan farmers who are still in subsistence agriculture transform into commercial agriculture.
Katungisa further said that incorporation of science is agriculture is a good thing but it needs to be done with caution. “Science needs to supplement indigenous knowledge and technology, and it should step into an area that is badly lacking because all the other indigenous technologies cant work. Why? Because indigenous technologies are cheaper and therefore adoption would be much easier. So we welcome science but we are saying that we should first use the indigenous technologies before bringing in the GMOs,” He said.
He however said that GMOs would be better fast-tracked in livestock where a farmer can keep ten cows and be able to produce 200 litres of milk.
The same view was shared by Aguti Betty Rose, the National Coordinator UNFF voice platform, who wondered why the bill has dragged for over seven years before being passed into law.
She further warned that if the bill is passed into law, Uganda will lose her comparative advantage on the world market for exporting organic agricultural products. “If we brought in the GMOs into the country, what will be our comparative advantage? Can we compete the likes of USA, Germany South Africa, where farmers are subsidized and using high technology in agriculture? These are questions we need to respond to as a country before we go full blast on this,”
She further concluded that the country needs to go slow on the bill because there lies the great risk of losing the food sovereignty, and a looming danger of bio-terrorism and bio-piracy. “Are we able to battle if somebody comes to fight our country using food? As Uganda are we able to fight back such a threat?” She questioned.
The same sentiment was shared by the Executive Director of Foods Rights Alliance (FIA) Agnes Kirabo who called on politicians seeking election in 2021 to listen to the plight of farmers since food is the engine that keeps the country alive and healthy.
The GMO bill was passed by parliament in November 2018, but the President is yet to ascend to it to become law, after sending it back to parliament but in March 2020, he said that the bill needs to be passed so that agricultural production is boosted a notch higher.