“There is no way we can move forward unless we embrace science and technology,” Museveni added: “You cannot have a modern economy without science and technology.”
The scientists were meeting the Parliamentary committee on Science and Technology at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) at Kawanda to solicit their views about the bill that is soon to be tabled in Parliament for debate.
Museveni said Uganda has built sufficient human and physical capacity to effectively manage modern biotechnology benefits as well as challenges that come with it.
Museveni said: “Parliament should pass the biotechnology and boo-safety bill as it is the only protection we have against unregulated influx of products. We believe that the technology will help our farmers deal with challenges such as the banana bacterial wilt that has destroyed the crop in most parts of the country.”
Citing numerous cases of crop diseases arising from bacterial and viral diseases such as the banana bacterial wilt and cassava brown streak, Museveni said the country cannot keep incurring losses when Ugandan scientists have discovered a solution to combat those diseases through the use of genetically modified organisms or (GMOs).
“The time to transform our country is now not tomorrow,” Museveni vowed saying that the detractors will not be given a chance.
Since its introduction in Parliament, the biotechnology and bio-safety bill has raised a lot debate especially between scientists on the pro side and members of the civil society on the anti-side.
The civil society led by organisations like Action Aid, Caritas, and Food Rights Alliance have mounted a spirited and sometimes negative campaign against the bill alleging that the bill will take away farmers’ freedom to plant their saved seeds.
Scientists however say the bill does not in anyway enslave Ugandan farmers since most of the crops currently being tested with GM technology are vegetatively cultivated and therefore have little commercial value to international seed companies like Monsanto, Dupont and others.
Meanwhile the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology Obua Hamson, said they have finalised consultations on the bill, and are in final stages of presenting it to the floor of Parliament for debate.
Obua said that after making perhaps the widest consultations about any proposed bill in recent parliamentary history, the committee will soon present the bill for debate with the aim of having it passed.
While trying to mute high expectations of scientists regarding the bill, Obua said it could turn any way.
He however revealed efforts must now turn to Parliament to ensure that all members of parliament especially from the ruling NRM party are lobbied.
If passed, the bill will open the way for the release of disease resistant banana and cassava and 5 other crops that have been developed using GM technology.