Last month, a section of MPs led by Bufumbira County East MP, James Nsaba-Buturo were planning to introduce a bill prohibiting Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Nsaba-Buturo said that Ugandans need to reject any plans to introduce GMOs in the country, reasoning absurdly, that GMOs pose health risks as well as a danger to the environment.
He further added that the Bill will also provide for the phasing out of the already existing GMOs in the country and insisted that GMOs are a disaster that have no benefits. He labored to even tell an open lie that 50 African countries out of 54, have said no to GMOs. Buturo needs to be told that genetically modified crops have been commercially cultivated in many African countries that include Kenya, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Sudan amongst others.
According to research, Maize, soybean and cotton are some of the GM crops currently grown in South Africa. Hon Buturo is one of the many Ugandans who think it’s fashionable to demonize or scandalize GMOs, even when they have no evidence to adduce to that effect. But he needs to know that strict risk assessments and quality assurances are done at every stage of GMO development, to ensure close evaluation and monitoring long before these products are available on the market.
In 2017 and 2021, President Yoweri Museveni declined to sign into law, the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012 due to the probable dilemma arising from the fact that he is a serious proponent of scientific innovations and at the same time, a believer in history and cultural practices. But he needs his lenses on to take this decision – which is a very easy undertaking since there is massive evidence to justify GMO proliferation in the country took place a long time ago, without any negative consequences.
The GMO Bill which was legislated in 2012 must NOT be used by anti-GMO propagandists who are motivated by ignorance or selfish reasons. There is a lot of evidence to show that Buturo and most of the Anti-GMO people have been enjoying GMO products without knowing it. Rather than scaremongering, they should face the reality that these products have already been doing well on the Ugandan market.
Most Ugandan Chicken are GMO Products
Today, Ugandans have opted for genetically modified chicken because they realized that the much ‘loved’ local African chicken has got very hard skin, takes long to get ready and has a very dull taste. In fact, when subjected to a test between this African chicken and the genetically modified cross breed chicken, you will realize that most Ugandans will take preference for the genetically cross breed birds.
Let’s be honest here; how many of you have eaten local African chicken from KFC, or any top hotels like Serena or Sheraton? The same arguments about poultry can easily justify the need for other genetically modified organisms. Without GMOs, Uganda’s poultry, piggery, meat and milk sectors would only be for subsistence. Secondly, even if you are badly opposed to GMOs, the market demands will humble you into submission.
Most of Uganda’s poultry output figures for the number of eggs and kilograms of chicken are GMO products. This is mostly because the local chicken cannot produce eggs and meat in enough quantities that can satisfy the market demands, or get quantified and captured in our gross domestic product (GDP).
A conservative person will oppose cross-breed cattle which can safely be labeled as GMO, simply because he is obsessed with Ankole cattle but the reality is that these Ankole cattle cannot be relied upon to produce milk and meat in enough quantities that can satisfy the national and regional market. You will need that genetically modified cross breed cattle to get enough milk and meat that can provoke the need for agro-processing industries.
There is another example of the piggery sector that has been growing tremendously with the emergence of genetically modified pigs. Today, Ugandans consommé pork as a very serious delicacy in every corner of the country! But most of it is genetically modified. Anti-GMO group ought to know that when someone suffers from diabetes, he will need insulin that is produced by pigs that are genetically modified. The medical world will tell you that you cannot get that insulin from your local pigs.
The world today is in a dire need for food. This food cannot be delivered without the need for GMOs. The organic foods alone cannot be enough to feel the gap. Why? GMOs are higher yielding, can resist the adversity of pests and can prevail in poor quality soil, or poor weather conditions.
With all this in mind, you need to have a quick food alternative – which is readily availed by the presence of GMOs. Therefore, we need to balance between conservative, nostalgic sentiments of sticking to organic products and the necessity of having GMOs that can serve society in a meaningful manner. The tendency of criminalizing GMOs should be justified and not opposed by sentimentally-driven bigots.
Without GMOs, Uganda’s poultry, piggery, meat and milk sectors can collapse completely because the organic versions cannot fill the market demands. Therefore, those demonizing GMOs need to rethink their perspective. The GMOS are already in vogue playing a vital role in the food market. They are the best solution for the incessant droughts and famine that normally hit Africa with acute food shortage.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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