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9-Misc: Uganda's Minister for Agriculture calls for wider biotechdialogue

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TITLE:  Minister Calls for Wider Biotechnology Dialogue
SOURCE: The Monitor, Uganda, by Izama Angelo
DATE:   Jun 26, 2003

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Minister Calls for Wider Biotechnology Dialogue

The Minister of Agriculture, Mr Kisamba Mugerwa, has called on Ugandans
to broaden their understanding of biotechnology beyond the controversial
debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

He called on Ugandans to focus on industrial, medical, and tissue culture
technologies. These are already being developed in Uganda for the local

Kisamba Mugerwa was recently speaking at a Biotechnology Stakeholders
dialogue organised by the Consumer Education Trust Uganda.

Currently, government forbids imports of GMOs until there is a
biotechnology policy and regulatory framework in place.

Food safety and environmental concerns have been at the centre of the
controversy on GMO's. Many Europeans fear their environmental and health
implications while the use of GMOs has been popularised in the US. Uganda
is one of several countries caught in the middle - they fear developing
GMO crops in case they are banned for export in Europe, its biggest
trading partner.

The agriculture minister is now reportedly in the US to attend a
biotechnology forum organised by the US Secretary of Agriculture.

Mr Henry Kimera, of Consumer Education Trust, said that GMO technologies
have been successfully commercialised in America where the average US
farm is 3500 hectares and big farms go up from 35,000 to 40,000 hectares.

The farmers who have benefited from GM are those who farm crops like
corn, soy and canola. These are not major commercial crops in Uganda.

In the battle for hearts and minds over GM crops, many US companies are
focusing on winning over African farmers.

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation ( AATF) is working with US
biotech giants Pioneer/Dupont and Monsanto Corporation and others to
educate people about GMOs. AATF will also provide royalty-free
technologies from large firms to African rural farmers.

Currently AATF is headed by Dr Eugene Terry, a Sierra Leone national,
while Godbar Tumushabe, a Ugandan lawyer, is on the board of directors.


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