‘Absence of enabling regulation frustrating efforts in agriculture’
Kampala. Absence of an enabling law is frustrating innovation and technological transformation in agriculture, some leading research scientists in the region and farmers’ representatives have said.
For years now, the Biosafety and Biotechnology bill has been gathering dust between Cabinet shelf and Parliament corridors because of the sentiments the proposed law is drawing from different quarters.
If the Bill becomes law, the research scientists Daily Monitor spoke to said it will allow them to release technologies that can transform agriculture greatly.
“At the moment, we are not retarded in our progress because we have a policy, government support and we have been given a go ahead to carry out research within the country,” Dr Priver Namanya, a research scientist, said in an interview last week at Kawanda Research Institute.
She continued: “Our only limitation is that the policy has not been turned into a law. There is a lot of work we have done here but we feel a little bit frustrated that we cannot reach the farmers because there is no law allowing us to do that and yet that is important for what we do
In another interview, Dr David Talengera, also a research scientist at Kawanda Research Institute, said so much technology has been developed that can revolutionise agricultural sector.
According to Dr Talengera, banana varieties that are resistant to diseases and weevils have been developed here but cannot be released to the farmers because of lack of an enabling law.
He said the banana variety also has nutrients like vitamin “A” that was not previously available in the banana crop. This will be in addition to the fact the variety is high yielding and resistant against diseases and insects affecting banana growth.
Speaking at Namulonge Research Institute last week, Dr Chris Omongo, the coordinator for cassava regional centre of excellence, said it is hurting to hear the narrative that agriculture is the backbone of the economy yet there is no so much to show for it. And to deal with that problem, he said there are safer technologies that can be employed to solve it, but not before regulation is solved once and for all.
Leaders of farmers’ forum on agricultural biotechnology demanded that the legislators do what is right and have that law passed.
“We are prepared to have those varieties in our farms and I think the absence of the law is crippling our development as farmers rather than help our cause to advance further,” Mr Simon Kawuki, a farmer and an agricultural extension officer in Wakiso District said during the seeing is believing field tour organised by Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development.
The vast majority of the bananas currently grown and consumed were not conventionally bred but are selections made over probably thousands of years from naturally occurring hybrids. Cultivated bananas are very nearly sterile and as a consequence are not propagated from seed but rather through vegetative propagation, primarily suckers as well as more recently micropropagated or tissue cultured bananas. These factors, very old selections, near sterility and vegetative propagation, mean that these bananas have not been genetically improved either for resistance or improved quality and are becoming increasing in affected by serious pests and diseases.
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