Ugandan biotechnology is showing good form. Genetically modified varieties of banana, cassava, cotton and maize are being developed at labs in the country. These have been given traits to address a number of local problems including drought , disease and low nutritional contents.
However, although the country’s government approved a GM policy in 2005, it has yet to adopt a law regulating the use of genetically modified organisms. This law is a prerequisite for the improved crops to reach the country’s farmers.
There is widespread anxiety among Ugandan biotechnologists about the delay in getting a biosafety law passed by Parliament. Unfortunately, they may have some time yet to wait before they know for sure the fate of the products they are developing.
So what is holding up the bill? Well, GM is a controversial issue, and one that does not have full support among Ugandan politicians. But a contributing factor will now be the upcoming national elections in 2011. Re-election will be foremost in the minds of most Ugandan MPs in the months leading up to it. And so the bill is likely to be passed on to the next Parliament, says Maxwell Otim, UNCST deputy executive secretary.
Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net columnist