The Woman Member of Parliament for Sironko District has urged her constituents to shun fertilizers, pesticides calling them, erroneously as Genetically Modified Products.
Florence Nambozo urged farmers in Sironko district and Bugisu region at large to shun application of genetically modified products and instead embrace what she termed as bio-organic products.
Nambozo argued that bio-organic products enhance agricultural production by improving the health of soils, preserving biodiversity and consequently improve people’s health.
She alleged that Bugisu agricultural sector has for many years relied on intensive farming techniques that use genetically modified fertilizers, pesticides and other products to raise crop productivity.
While addressing over 400 farmers at Mutufu trading Centre in Sironko district last week, the MP enumerated several advantages of using bio-organic products over chemicals including reduced costs, zero pollution and preservation of ecological diversity.
“These intensive farming methods have caused severe ecological imbalances, making the land less fertile and increasing plant diseases because the genetically modified products are not environmental friendly,” she said.
The MP further revealed that, land and water environments in rural areas of Bugisu region Sironko in particular have been seriously polluted due to abuse of crop protection chemicals, adding that these pesticide residues in farm produce is seriously affecting the soils.
Nambozo alleged that organic agriculture will have great chance to develop if embraced in the future to provide safe products for local consumption and export especially from Bugisu which is considered as a food basket for Uganda and East Africa at large.
The science of improving crop performance against diverse challenges ranging from pests and diseases using the science of biotechnology, has faced numerous challenges in Uganda.
One of the most outstanding is miss-leading information which is sometimes fuelled by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) indicating that GMOs are already in Uganda and are to blame for the rise in cancer and so many related ailments.
To start with, the science of Genetic Modification involves the introduction of a change in the genetic make-up of of living organisms, usually to address challenges such as diseases, or nutrient uptake. This means that the MP’s claim that there are GM fertilizers or pesticides in use in Uganda is wrong.
Genetic Materials in Uganda have already been used in the health sector in the form of vaccines against killer disease as well as in treating conditions such as diabates. In the crops field, Ugandan scientists are still testing GM crops with traits to fight against diseases, pests, and drought conditions that have made farming especially by small holder farmers a loss-making venture and a poverty trap.
Scientific evidence from the World Health Organisation, also indicates that Genetically Modified foods are not any harmful than other foods for both humans and animals.
Other studies have also assoicated GM crops with reduced pollution from use of pesticides as the new crops generally need less spraying.
The MPs views is at odds with the government’s position on using modern science including Genetic Modification to improve crops and animal lives. The government passed a policy in 2008 that allows for research and development of GMO crops where conventional means fail.
GMO law in Parliament
A bill to legalise the cultivation of GMO crops has been in the Ugandan Parliament for more than ten yeas now. Last year, it was passed but it is widely believed that interests by interested parties in State House forced President Yoweri Museveni, who is a renowned advocate of the technology to backtrack. He sent the bill back to Parliament to clarify a few things.
The Biotechnology and Bio-Safety bill 2017 is supposed to be re-tabled in Uganda.
By Ashirafu Tegike & Busein Samilu