As Uganda prepares to mark the World Food Day on October 16 2020, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja has come out to allay fears about the revamped Genetic Engineering Bill of 2018.
Efforts to pass the bill previously known as the ‘National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill of 2012’ have twice hit a dead end in 2017 and 2019 despite the approval of the Ugandan Legislative Assembly.
On both occasions, President Yoweri Museveni, an advocate of indigenous breeds has cited ambiguous issues rotating around ‘safety and security’ in refusing to sight it.
These twelve issues were contained in an August 2019 letter he wrote to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
“I do understand that there are large commercial interests behind the promotion of this technology. I welcome those interests. These commercial interests however need to be balanced against the needs to protect the ordinary Ugandan, ordinary citizens from real or potential harm. Health and wellbeing rather than profits must be our primary concern,” Museveni noted.
However, addressing the press at the Media Center on Tuesday, Ssempijja disclosed that the cabinet was in the final stages of re-tabling the bill which he said had no ulterior motives but is geared at solving food shortage among many other challenges.
“You remember the president the other day was talking of bringing in new things that shouldn’t destroy ours. So, all these will move together; new innovations and conservations. So nobody should be worried about this,” he said.
“There is no scientist, especially those under my agency, that will bring things that will kill the population. These are scientists that you gave birth to and then educated them, they are for you, they are for this country. So be sure that what will come out will be for the good of our country,” he further stated.
Speaking at the same function, Antonio Querido, the Food Agricultural Organization’s (FAOs) Representative warned that with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, world hunger is likely to grow in leaps and bounds.
“Before the Covd-19 pandemic, nearly 700 million people were undernourished and more than two billion people did not have regular access to enough safe and nutritious food. The economic disruption linked to the pandemic may add another 130 million to these figures,” Querido pointed out.
“The food security status report for Uganda for the period June 2020 to January 2021 noted that in July 2020, two in 10 households in urban areas did not have enough food to eat. Half of them resorted to poor diets or reduced number and size of meals; while six in ten families sold their productive assets,” he added.
In order to cap hunger and elevate agricultural production, Minister Ssempijja says Government has moved to implement a number of policies promoting irrigation farming, usage of mechanized equipment among many others.
“One of them we are handling now is irrigation. Government is also investing heavily in agricultural mechanization. One of these days we shall invite you to one of the 10 regional mechanization centers we are going to open,” he revealed.
This year’s “World Food day” virtual celebrations at MAAIFs Entebbe Headquarters in Entebbe will be graced by President Yoweri Museveni.