By Edwin Muhumuza
Human Rights Activists have raised concern regarding the human rights issues that arise from the National biotechnology and bio safety bill, 2012.
The bill in its current form stresses the primary obligation of the state to provide an adequate level of protection in the safe transfer, handling and use of GMO’s on health and sustainable use of biological diversity especially of indigenous and local communities.
The Uganda Human Rights Network(UHRC) is concerned with various aspects of the Bill including: provisions on public awareness, food safety and security, clear safety standards, fair and equitable sharing of benefits, inadequate proportionate based reviews and minimal representation of the ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries.
While they appeared before the parliamentary committee on science and technology, Members of parliament questioned the applicability of having the country divided into different zones to accommodate genetically modified organisms citing the lack of uniformity in public preferences to genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) even in planned gazetted areas.
The head of monitoring and supervision, Patricia Nduru noted that such an issue would have to be subjected to a Human Rights assessment.
There has been ongoing public debate and controversy regarding the extent to which the National Biotechnology and Biosafety law provides an appropriate legal and regulatory framework to protect Ugandans from possible adverse effects of GMO’s
The advancement of modern biotechnology has been popularized as a powerful tool in alleviating poverty and enhancing food security.
However, it presents a wide range of socio economic concerns and biosafety risks that require an effective legal regime. Currently the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill before Parliament is set to be discussed in the house any time.