Roundup: Ugandan president declines to sign genetic engineering regulatory bill into law

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-28 19:43:41|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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KAMPALA, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has for the second time declined to sign the genetic engineering regulatory bill into law citing safety and security concerns.

Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament told legislators late on Tuesday that Museveni returned the bill back to parliament with new proposed amendments and further review of the contentious clauses.

In his letter to Parliament, Museveni said the lawmakers should look at the use of poisonous and dangerous viruses and bacteria, use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) materials and seeds, benefits sharing between the breeder, innovator and indigenous community, among others.

"We must have a law that allows our scientists to carry out research and make scientific breakthroughs," Museveni said in a letter read out by Kadaga, adding at the same time it should safeguard the ecology and diversity of the country as well as the interests of ordinary people who depend on the land for their sustenance.

"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," he said.

Museveni said the bill in its current state does not serve the interests of Ugandans.

In December, 2017, Museveni rejected to sign the bill, which was passed in October, on grounds that it will contaminate the indigenous seeds, which Ugandan farmers have developed for years.

The lawmakers again passed the bill on Nov. 28, last year, but Museveni has again rejected to sign it into law.

Although the Constitution provides for the bill to be passed into law if the president returns it for the second time, Kadaga noted that Museveni raises important issues that may require reconsideration.

"I will be giving this (Museveni) letter to the committee (science, technology and innovation) to look at it again, together with the bill," said Kadaga.

"Instruct the Prime Minister to get space on the order paper to lay the bill again on Sept. 11 so that house (parliament) may reconsider the bill," she said.

The bill provides a regulatory framework that would facilitate the safe development and application of biotechnology, research, development and release of GMOs.

It also establishes institutions that would regulate and promote the usage of biotechnology in a bid to modernize agriculture and environmental protection, as well as enhance public health and industrialization.

There is a heated debate globally over the use of GMOs, with proponents arguing that those organisms have the potential to boost food, fuel and fiber production, which will accelerate economic growth and foreign exchange earnings.

Opponents of the law argue that since the technology comes from developed countries, there are varied interests which may be veiled with ill intentions.

Scientists argue that the enactment of the law would pave the way for extending their trials to the field instead of being limited to working within their institutions' boundaries.