Members of Parliament under the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology have tasked scientists at Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute(KARI) to educate the public more on Genetically Modified crops.
The MPs raised concern over the unawareness of the public about genetically modified crops, the misconceptions harboured by people concerning genetically modified organisms(GMOs) and a few glitches in some of the genetically modified crops that have been introduced locally.
This was during a meeting at the Agricultural Research Institute on Thursday 11th August 2016.
Hon. Rose Mutonyi (Bubulo West) said the public is not convinced about genetically modified crops and some forces are out there decampaigning them.
“I know a couple of people who are going further to convince MPs that genetically modified crops are bad,” she said further adding that, “the Bill on Biotechnology and Biosafety which was meant to introduce genetically modified crops was brought to the House, debated contentiously and with time Members lost interest. As Members of Parliament also, we also need to be well educated about GMOs before we can make a sober decision on the matter.”
Hon. Mary Babirye Kabanda (Masaka) further said that countries like China and USA have been using this technology successfully for a while; however, in Uganda the introduction of GMOs has been met with a resistance for a number of reasons.
“Some genetically modified plants have issues like the Matooke Plant called Mpologoma which cannot survive for more than four years much as it yields well,” Kabanda said.
Hon. Alex Burundo (Bulambuli) backed Kabanda’s statement saying there is a Matooke plant called NAADS that yields big but tasteless bunches.
“There is a type of a genetically modified maize seed that is susceptible to cassava mosaic and a Sunflower type that yields well and produces plenty of Oil but lacks a seed for farmers to replant,” Burundo said.
He added that farmers need genetically modified seeds that they can rely on to plant in masses without fear of any side effects.
He added that they need to be totally liberated from having to return to Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute for more seeds.
Hon. Charles Angiro (Erute North), said that the researchers needed to harmonize their laboratory results with actual results farmers realize in the field.
“This makes many farmers out their sceptical of taking on these GM Crops. Additionally, there is a need to further educate people on the advantages for GM crops because the advantages are visible in other countries.
Dr. Andrew Kiggundu, a Senior Research Officer and Head of the Biotechnology and Biodiversity Programme at Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute said there is a need for an extension testing system outside the laboratory during research in order for the scientists to come out with more accurate innovations and results.
“There are so many parameters we cannot test in the laboratory setting; for example we had a sorghum variety we produced that was high yielding but it turned out to be very bitter when brewed and that’s something we cannot establish the test,” he said.
He requested the MPs to urge the government to revive the extension system to ease the work of scientists.
“We have had a fragmented extension system for a while now. NAADs was supposed to be helpful in executing the extension system but they have distanced themselves from the National Agricultural Research Organisation,” he said.
He promised to educate the MPs more and engage with the Committee on Science and Technology on such interventions.
The Committee on Science and Technology visited the Kawanda Research Institute on a familiarisation tour for the new Committee members and later proceeded to Tororo town for a Committee Induction and a tour of the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NALIRRI).