Dear Honorable Members of Parliament, we are writing to you to express deepest concern regarding the Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill 2012, which is currently slated for debate in NRM caucus and plenary for consideration/ enactment into law in the coming days, weeks and months. We want to urge you to vote against this bill, because it will harm livelihoods of many family farmers, downgrade health of millions of citizens, increase hazards to environment and cripple strategic economic interests of Uganda.
In spite of the adjuncts of Climate change, Africa is still feeding itself (albeit with challenges) at a time when its arable land utilization is below 50%. In Uganda, over 80% of farmers are defacto conservation and organic farmers- and truly we are feeding ourselves and the region. If our conservation practices are accentuated through a reformed budget architecture that puts more money in agriculture – we can feed the World. So why do we need a bill that seeks to promote and spread GMOs instead of a bill that seeks to stop and wipe GMOs wherever they already exist in Uganda?
You realise that, the untapped Organics market in Europe is $60 billion, Japan $11 billion and US $41 billion (ITC) – instead of running away from this market, we should be strategizing to harness it. Now, the world wants GMO products labelled (you have been following these demands in California and Namibia). If Uganda, welcomes the spread of GMO, where will Uganda sell its GMO coffee, cotton, bananas, maize, and onions, among other farm products? Can those promoting GMOs tell us where Uganda will sell its GMO agricultural products? Apart from the science of it, if we take a purely economic point of view, GMO technology is not strategic for Uganda and Africa. If we deepen conservation agriculture, Uganda wins a strategic war. It is just like a case of Oil refinery versus pipeline debate in Uganda- the Pipeline makes money for oil companies whereas the refinery makes money for Uganda and its citizenry. GMOs will make money for corporate interests and improved Conservation agriculture will make money for millions of small holder farmers in Uganda. GMOs are the Takers.
Honorable Members , the proposed Bill is aligned to the interests of transnational companies and not to the interests of Ugandan farmers and the wider public. This is a violation of the precautionary principle, which forms the basis of the African Union’s revised African Model Law on Biodiversity. Thus, the adoption of this Bill would compromise the future adoption of a national Ugandan Biodiversity Bill based on the African Model Law on Biodiversity.
You realize that subjecting the agricultural sector to the imperatives of the agro-industry and its GMO-model will gradually destroy traditional family farming, local seed systems and Ugandan food. The massive introduction of GMO’s will increase family farmer’s dependency on agro-industry, because they will be obliged to buy costly patented seeds and expensive fertilizers. Due to such increased production costs, there is a risk of high indebtedness and bankruptcy for family farmers. Additionally, patented commercial seeds deprive farmers of the right to save, replant, share or propagate their own seeds. This harms the food self-sufficiency of family farmers, who represent the majority of the Ugandan population, and as consequence the entire country’s food sovereignty. The introduction of GM-feedstock will have the same effect for livestock farming and will eliminate traditional herding practices. The combination of these effects of GMO’s will lead to the disappearance of local seeds and food stuffs.
Instead of promoting this destructive model, we urge you to use your influence to enact policies supporting family farmers, who form the basis of our economy and our country. Vital issues for family farmers are improved access to credit, inputs and markets. Despite these obstacles organic family farming is growing at 38% per year in Uganda. Therefore, the implementation of supportive policies could liberate an enormous growth potential for the sector, providing better income opportunities for low-income family farmers and conserving biodiversity.
The team at Agency for Transformation is looking forward to hearing from you regarding both the stopping of the Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill 2012 and the supportive policies you envisage for our family farmers and wider citizenry of Uganda and Africa. VOTE THE BILL IF AND ONLY IT’S OBJECTIVE IS TO STOP ENTRY OF GMOs IN UGANDA – FINDING AND DESTROYING GMOs WHERE THEY ALREADY EXIST IN UGANDA.
Chief Executive Officer, Agency for Transformation.