UGANDA – Uganda’s Committee on Science, Technology, and Innovation has sounded an urgent call for the establishment of laws regulating genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The plea comes as Uganda makes significant strides in Gene Drive Technology research, a groundbreaking initiative under the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) aimed at combatting malaria through the targeted transmission of specific genes.

As Uganda forges ahead in pioneering genetic solutions to combat malaria, a glaring regulatory void has come to light.

The absence of laws governing GMOs leaves the country without a robust framework to oversee the development, importation, distribution, and consumption of genetically modified organisms, reports New Vision.

The call for urgent regulation is not just a matter of scientific governance but also crucial for protecting public health, the environment, and ensuring responsible genetic research practices.

The Committee, in its report stemming from the 1st global conference on new and emerging genetic biocontrol technologies held in Nairobi, Kenya, underscores the immense potential of Gene Drive Technology.

This innovative approach holds promise in controlling mosquito-borne diseases, particularly malaria, and addressing challenges posed by genetically engineered pests affecting agriculture and the environment.

Highlighting the porous nature of Uganda’s borders with neighboring countries, the Committee emphasizes the heightened risk of unregulated GMO products entering the country.

Without a legal framework in place, there is a genuine concern that GMO distribution within Uganda could occur without proper oversight, potentially compromising safety standards.

The Committee draws attention to global best practices, pointing out that countries at the forefront of GMO adoption have robust legal frameworks.

These frameworks are designed to ensure the safe development, distribution, labeling, and protection of both human health and the environment.

Uganda’s lack of such regulations raises questions about its ability to navigate the complexities of genetic research responsibly.

Limiting GMOs to non-consumable products

In a bid to strike a balance, the Committee recommends the consideration of GMOs but proposes limiting their use to non-consumable products, such as cotton.

However, this recommendation faces opposition, with concerns raised by Speaker Annet Among. She questions the suitability of limiting GMOs to cotton, as cotton seeds and oils are integral components in animal feed production.

Last year, the Members of Parliament had proposed a bill prohibiting GMOs after Kenya lifted the 2012 moratorium, that restricted the importation or open cultivation of GMO crops.

The tenth Parliament had earlier passed the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, but President Yoweri Museveni declined to sign it into law.

As Uganda stands at the crossroads of genetic research breakthroughs, the urgent call for GMO regulations is resonating in parliamentary discussions.

The decisions made in the coming months will not only shape the trajectory of genetic research in the country but also determine its ability to harness scientific advancements responsibly and safely.

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