The Ugandan government has passed the Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill, 2018. The bill will serve to provide a regulatory framework for safe development and application of biotechnology and release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
The same bill had been passed earlier on this year but was rejected and sent back for review by President Museveni. According to media reports, the president specifically sought clarity on the title and sanctions for scientists who mix GMOs with indigenous crops and animals among others.
President Museveni said that parliament had a duty to protect crops and livestock with unique genetic configuration developed by Ugandans. He further argued that using genetic engineering, one may add desirable qualities like drought and disease resistance as well as quick maturing. These, he said, are factors overlooked by the Bill that talks of giving the monopoly of patent rights to its adder while forgetting about the communities that developed the original material.
The President cautioned that GMOs seeds should never be randomly mixed with indigenous seeds just in case they turn out to have a problem. He also demanded that parliament clarifies on other aspects of genetic engineering. This included setting the boundary of the technology to crops and animals, labelling of GMOs, and the proposal to have genetically modified materials in the irrigated areas of Mobuku.
Fred Bwino the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on Science, Technology and Innovation, admitted that the initial Bill had shortfalls and proposed amendments that were adopted by parliament. These included renaming the bill to ‘The Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill, 2018’.
The new Bill also makes the owner of any patent legally responsible for any effects that might result from his creation. It also provides for containment of confined field trials in green houses to guarantee separation of indigenous seeds from genetically modified seeds.