British environmentalist and author
The debate on GMOs has pitted scientists and activists supportive of the biotech bill against critics, who say that GMOs are not the solution to hunger and therefore should not be allowed into
"To those who are not convinced, let's have a peaceful coexistence because having GMOs will not wipe out all the other seeds; organic seeds and GMOs can co exist. Bio tech is not the solution to every single problem but we must be pro-choice. Farmers who want traditional varieties should have their rights and those who want high yielding GMO seeds should have the right to plant them. I don't know any pro-GMO scientist who goes out in the night and uproots organic crops," Lynas said.
He was speaking at a recent public debate at
Some activists say that these GMO seeds are dangerous, arguing that they pose health risks to humans and the environment. They believe that patent rights given to seed companies like
The bill states that 'a person shall not engage in research or general release of GMOs without approval under the law and the penalty for a defaulter is a fine not exceeding Shs 960,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 24 months or both.'
Peasant farmers argue that plants and animals cannot be manufactured in a laboratory or patented because they are natural and should remain so. They say that GMOs place seeds at the centre of the fight for food sovereignty and will lead to loss of indigenous knowledge on seed systems and practices.
"We need to respect and retain traditional farming practices created by our ancestors. Agriculture is more about local growth, people's livelihoods and nourishment using several types of food and not just one food," says Dr Giregon Olupot, from the department of Agriculture.
Phinehus Tukumuhirwe, the assistant professor for plant breeding and genetics, argues that GMO plants do not produce varieties for themselves. He says that while self-pollinating crops like beans may pose no problem, crops like maize and millet may turn into something undesirable.
"We should not tamper with these crops unless you do not mind all of them becoming GMO crops," Tukumuhirwe said.
"While the bill will help us, it is under the influence of profit-minded scientists aimed at imposing agricultural colonialism because GMOs are not a solution to world hunger as the scientists claim. Hunger is not caused by lack of food but by lack of access to food. People have no money to buy food or land to grow food, so hunger will persist with GMOs because excess doesn't mean access," Bakuneeta says.
"If we are to eat the local breed free-range chicken which lays about ten eggs in three months and takes about a year to mature, can we be able to sustain food security?" Makara wondered.
Lynas, a former anti-GMO campaigner, says scientists have failed to inform the world of the benefits of GMOs. He says he spent years opposing GMOs, destroyed crops in fields and organised demonstrations against
He thought scientists wanted to create some mutant monsters and take over the world. He believed technology was going to allow big seed companies to take over the world food supplies and prevent farmers from using their seeds by destroying them.
"The reality is GMOs produce fertile offspring. In America, people consume 2-3 trillion meals containing GMO food without a single effect or even a simple headache. I came here because the situation is now alarming.
Staple crops like cassava and bananas are at a severe threat from new diseases that could wipe them out. Scientists in
He says with a looming population boom that will increase by another one billion people in the next 10 years, the future population will have nothing to eat if something is not done today.
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