Farmers in the Kigezi sub region have asked parliament to speed up the passing of the National Biotechnology and Bio safety bill.
While meeting members of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee at Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KAZARDI) on a consultative meeting about the proposed National Biotechnology and Bio safety bill on Friday, farmers said that the bill once passed into law shall improve the sector.
The bill which seeks to regulate the production of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and guide in biotechnological innovation was first presented in parliament in February, 2013.
This bill was among the other bills that were not passed by the 9th Parliament during its term of service.
However, the National Biotechnology and Biosafety bill was retrieved by the 10th Parliament in June,2016 forcing Members of Parliament to embark on a Nationwide consultation of stakeholders about the bill.
Charles Byarugaba, an Irish Potato farmer from Kamuganguzi Sub County, Kabale district told legislators that he has started reaping much from his biotechnological farm despite the inexistence of a law governing him.
Byarugaba who started growing Irish potatoes in 1999 resorted to the use of Biotechnology after his production levels started decreasing.
“During my early years in this business, I would grow one sack of Irish potatoes and reap 10 sacks but this trend kept changing and by the time I switched to Biotechnology, 1 sack had started producing 5 sacks,” said Byarugaba.
Byarugaba whose agricultural success story lies in the power of biotechnological tools said that he needs a policy to guide his actions so as to perform in the expected standards.
“Currently, with my screen house, 1 plantlet gives me 20 minitubers and that is an equivalent of 1 bag producing 10 bags. I wish to get more legal back up for my actions through the passing of this bill,” said Byarugaba.
Kellen Kisizi another farmer from Bukinda in Kabale district said that as farmers, they prefer improved varieties that grow faster and are disease resistant.
“Modified crops are good for us especially in this ever changing climate. They are accommodative of any conditions and can quickly grow. We wish to see them developing but a law in place would save us from fake products that may be harmful,” said Kisiiza.
Alex Barekye, the Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KAZARDI) director said that the institution has for the last 4 years been involved in the production of modified crop varieties but their capacity to improve is limited by the unavailabilty of a policy to govern them.
“A lot of negative propaganda is going around about biotechnological products and their reliability. Since there is no law to govern our production, we find it hard to defend our products in the public,” said Barekye.
Dennis Nzeirwe, the Kabale deputy Resident District Commissioner appealed to parliament to advocate for an increased investment in Science and Technology for National development.
“ Most of the developed countries have embraced Science and Technology investment. If Uganda is to take a great step in development we must support our scientists in their activities,” said Nzeirwe.
Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, the Kigulu North MP and also deputy chairperson for the parliamentary science and Technology committee vowed to follow up the farmers requests by doing more consultation on the bill.
The committee gave Kabale district stakeholders a week to study the bill and present their recommendations toward it.