GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

[genet-news] POLICY & REGULATION: Ugandans are only being told about the bright side of biotechnology



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   UGANDANS ARE ONLY BEING TOLD ABOUT THE BRIGHT SIDE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY

SOURCE:  New Vision, Uganda

AUTHOR:  Opiyo Oloya

URL:     http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/20/737637

DATE:    09.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Today, I am even more alarmed by the attempts to shut down meaningful debate by those with vested interest in biotechnology. [...] But what I found so distressing about Kiggundu?s letter and Makara?s article is that they both use some of the very language that multinationals use when they want to pull wool over the eyes of Africans such as using biotechnology to save ?starving Africans?."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


UGANDANS ARE ONLY BEING TOLD ABOUT THE BRIGHT SIDE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY

SEVERAL weeks ago, I wrote to President Museveni asking him to stop the proposed testing of genetically modified maize in Uganda. I was concerned then that the involvement of US multinational Monsanto in such a project could eventually enslave small farmers in Uganda.

The reason for this is that the law in Canada and USA allows Monsanto and other big agriculture giants to claim to have invented the ?new? genetically modified seeds, and to make profit from them.

Today, I am even more alarmed by the attempts to shut down meaningful debate by those with vested interest in biotechnology. In this category was the article extolling the virtues of genetically modified food by Arthur Makara, the executive director of Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development.

But, it was the personal communication I received last week from Dr. Andrew Kiggundu, Director of National Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, National Agricultural Research Laboratories Institute, Kawanda that convinced me that Ugandans are only being told about the bright side of biotechnology, and not the darker, more evil side.

Kiggundu was not happy with my latest questioning of genetically modified crops. He wrote: ?One problem I am having with your allegations is that it has lies in it. You as an educated Ugandan need to understand the facts before you teach the largely uneducated population otherwise people may think you have ulterior motives.?

He concluded the long letter thus: ?Finally, brother, it is not realistic to fight a losing battle because there is no way GM will be stopped. It is already seeping across the borders in Africa and its being stolen by farmers as is the case in the North and South America?. We do not live in Canada eating GM and telling Africans to starve.?

Now, Kiggundu did not say what lies I have told. I have restated very clearly my opposition to the planned testing of genetically modified maize by Monsanto. I also made it very clear that Monsanto makes money by conducting scientific experiments on existing seeds, placing new genes in those seeds so that they become resistant to certain weed killers or insects, patenting the seeds, and selling them as new inventions to farmers.

In North America farmers cannot keep part of their harvests to use as seeds. They must buy new seeds every year. That is not a lie?the information is readily available. But what I found so distressing about Kiggundu?s letter and Makara?s article is that they both use some of the very language that multinationals use when they want to pull wool over the eyes of Africans such as using biotechnology to save ?starving Africans?. I do not know from which village they come or how many Ugandan farmers have turned in biotechnology thieves.

But I do know that in 1998 Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto for ?stealing? canola seeds when his farm became contaminated by Monsanto?s genetically modified canola. Monsanto took him to court and won all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Could Kiggundu now be trusted to design protocols to ensure that genetically modified crops under test do not leak and contaminate indigenous crops?

But what is truly disturbing is that even as European and North American consumers are having second thoughts about GM food, Kiggundu and Makara believe it is the silver bullet to cure Africa?s food problem. Kiggundu declared: ?We do not live in Canada eating GM and telling Africans to starve.? Makara chimed in with: ?Opiyo Oloya is out of touch with reality here in Uganda; he is in Canada where no one sleeps hungry and where GM crops have been commercialised since the mid-90s!?

The reality is that when I go to the supermarket in Newmarket to buy grocery, I have no way of telling which food is genetically modified and which is naturally organic agriculture harvests. The food industry in Canada and the US spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year lobbying policy makers against food labels.

Now, if Makara and Kiggundu believe that GM food is so healthy for human consumption, could they explain to me in very simple language that a six-year old can understand why the North American food industry spends billions to hide the name of genetically modified food from consumers?

Studies are looking into why life-threatening food allergies linked to nuts and peanut (groundnuts) have become so pervasive that school children are forbidden from bringing nuts to school. This is just one of many questions that biotechnology researchers in Uganda must consider before rushing to carry experiments on every indigenous seeds.

I repeat that Uganda must protect naturally organic agriculture harvests (NOAH) seeds from GM contamination. I am so happy to note that the online petition to preserve NOAH (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/noah-uganda/) in Uganda is attracting support from around the world and growing by the hour. 



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   OPIYO OLOYA IS NOT AGAINST GMO CROPS

SOURCE:  New Vision, Uganda

AUTHOR:  Peter Ogoro

URL:     http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/21/737410

DATE:    07.11.2010

SUMMARY: "I wish to respond to the vicious attack against Dr. Opiyo Oloya by Arthur Makara, the executive director of Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development. First of all, Oloya is not against genetically modified crops; rather, he warns us about the ruthless practices of corporations like Monsanto which acquire patents (sometimes illegitimately) to crop genes and end up controlling the farmers who grow them."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


OPIYO OLOYA IS NOT AGAINST GMO CROPS

EDITOR: I wish to respond to the vicious attack against Dr. Opiyo Oloya by Arthur Makara, the executive director of Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development.

First of all, Oloya is not against genetically modified crops; rather, he warns us about the ruthless practices of corporations like Monsanto which acquire patents (sometimes illegitimately) to crop genes and end up controlling the farmers who grow them.

Whatever the legalities surrounding Monsanto's patents may be, should Ugandans look on as we lose whatever food sovereignty we have? Secondly, Makara displays unforgivable naivety by suggesting that Monsanto will have no interest in crops which are not commercially viable in the US.

Does he think such corporations are not interested in the present and future African market? In fact, many of the food crops in Uganda can be sources of other commercially viable materials which would interest these companies very much.

The aim of local tests sponsored by the likes of Monsanto is to enter the African market so as to gain a future killing ground.

Finally, I think Ugandans, while supporting the efforts of our scientists, should also be wary of the local proxies of the big GMO corporations whose job is to blind us while their paymasters take over.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS GOOD FOR THE FUTURE

SOURCE:  New Vision, Uganda

AUTHOR:  Arthur Makara

URL:     http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/459/736982

DATE:    03.11.2010

SUMMARY: "I am writing to dispel the allegations by Opiyo Oloya in the media recently regarding the potential of biotechnology to improve food production and address farmers? challenges, such as diseases and pests. [...] Opiyo Oloya is out of touch with reality here in Uganda; he is in Canada where no one sleeps hungry and where GM crops have been commercialised since the mid-90s!"

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS GOOD FOR THE FUTURE

The writer is executive director Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development

I am writing to dispel the allegations by Opiyo Oloya in the media recently regarding the potential of biotechnology to improve food production and address farmers? challenges, such as diseases and pests. Let us give the Ugandan scientists the benefit of the doubt.

Mr President, you remember in August 2003, you opened Uganda?s first-ever National Agricultural Biotechnology Centre (NABC) at Kawanda at the height of polarised debate regarding genetically modified crops. This laboratory was put up as an effort to build home-grown capacity for our scientists to understand genetically modified organisms.

During its commissioning, you said that you had built indigenous capacity for oil exploration. You said it had given you satisfactory results and you wanted the same for genetic engineering.

Since then, a lot has happened and it is time you visited the NABC. More than 100 genetic engineers have been trained locally. The centre is reportedly the best in the region. NEPAD and the AU have identified it as a regional hub for biotechnology training.

Currently, the facility has over 20 young scientists training at the master?s and PhD levels. Through this centre, genetically modified (GM) banana varieties have been developed and are currently undergoing field trials. These include bananas with enhanced Vitamin A and iron that are intended to address the challenge of malnutrition in children and iron deficiency in expectant mothers.

In your manifesto Mr President, maternal health is the number one priority. Secondly, the scientists are doing field trials for banana varieties for resistance to a devastating bacterial disease. On the campaign trail, your voters may ask what medicine you have for this devastating disease that destroys banana plantations. Oloya still holds the old-fashioned view that GM crops will fall from somewhere onto our country and our farms. He is out of touch with reality because; Uganda is currently a regional leader in agricultural biotech research through championing the use of GM technology.

Will the Monsanto he is talking about do research on genes for improvement of bananas, cassava, yams, okra, pumpkins or millet, which are not commercially viable in the US? These are crops of great importance here and it would be unforgivable for our Government to look on as they get wiped off the face of the earth by diseases and pests.

In the face of climate change, a lot of crop diseases and pests have come up against our crops, yet Oloya does not seem to know this. You may also be aware ofthe brown streak disease of cassava that makes roots rot. Again your scientists are using GM technology at Namulonge to develop varieties that are resitant to this disease which you are also likely to hear about from voters during your campaigns in cassava growing areas. What shall we use to counter these challenges if we do not use all available tools, including GM technology?

Opiyo Oloya is out of touch with reality here in Uganda; he is in Canada where no one sleeps hungry and where GM crops have been commercialised since the mid-90s!




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
GENET-news is a public news service from GENET.
Visit GENET website to learn more about GENET: www.genet-info.org
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~