The Speaker of Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga has lent her support to Uganda’s agricultural scientists in their pursuit to have a well regulated environment to commercialise research products, especially those made through Genetic Modification.
Speaker Kadaga invited a group of local leaders from her own constituency in Kamuli and from other parts of Busoga, to tour and witness improved crops and animals while urging them to adopt the technologies as a way to fight poverty.
Speaker Kadaga’s visit to the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Namulonge, the home of some of the most advanced research in the country, could be seen as a sign of approval on the work by the scientists. Namulonge hosts two centres of excellence one for Cassava and another for Maize. Using the two centres, Uganda has achieved tremendous acclaim across Africa for undertaking ground-breaking research in Genetic Engineering for resistance against pests such as the Fall Armyworm in Maize and for the Cassava Brown Streak Virus in Cassava.
The tour comes at a time when Ugandan farmers are waiting for President’s next move regarding whether or not he approves of the changes to the Genetic engineering law that were passed two months ago in Parliament.
In December 2017, President Museveni declined to assent to the Biosafety Act 2017 and returned it to Parliament for a clarification. In November 2018, Parliament passed a greatly changed law under the title Genetic Engineering Regulatory Act 2018. Whereas the constitution gives the president up to 30 days to assent to the bill, there are signs he has done so by now.
By registering her personal presence, and by urging her constituents to adopt the science by NARO researchers, Kadaga’s visit could be seen as a sign of approval and trust in the efforts of Ugandan researchers.
While at Namulonge, Kadaga said: “Poverty and unproductivity are too much in Busoga but we are on a campaign to improve the economic status by bringing these farmers to learn and encourage them to put what they have seen and discussed in action,” Kadaga said.
The leaders toured a number of bioscience facilities including laboratories to witness improvements in the country’s capacity to hand biotechnology and biosafety. They also visited Confined Field Trials (CFTs), the Livestock Research Institute in Nyakesasa.
While at Nakyesasa, the Director Research, NARO, Dr. Swidiq Mugerwa informed Kadaga that Ugandan researchers have developed capacity to develop vaccines in line with World Health Organization standards. The vaccines produced include three tick specific vaccines and one cocktail with the capacity to protect Ugandan cattle from the three most prevalent ticks.
Dr. Mugerwa noted however that they are exploring ways of inventing a vaccine that work on a larger scope.
“Once this vaccine is on the market, it will save the country over UGX3.2 trillion which is the current expenditure on imported vaccines and acaricide treatment for livestock,” Mugerwa said.
The farmers toured the dairy circular production facility which houses a new breed of Viking Jerseys that are considered appropriate for the local market in the current climate conditions.
NARO is a corporate body responsible for coordinating, guiding and overseeing agricultural research in Uganda.