The state of GMOs in climate change strained Uganda

GMO maize at Namulonge, a research station north Kampala (

Crop production is very sensitive to temperature and climate change this has put the global food security in the balance.  About 30% yield of maize is lost to drought as result the Uganda government is losing an estimated $19.4 million. While the loss in the banana sector is 71.4% which is about $299.6 million due to banana bacterial wilt.

Due to change in climatic conditions and population increase, scientists are using modern biotechnology to genetically modified plants to make them climate change resistant. This means you have to repurchase new seed from them each season, opposed to the traditional practice of saving seed from one season’s harvest to plant the next.  Multinational companies have patents that do not allow traditional seed propagation, which makes agriculture an expensive venture for the youth. However, patented crops don’t know they’re not supposed to spread like natural ones. Farms can easily become contaminated by wind- or insect-carried pollen from GMO fields, thereby opening farmers up to patent infringement lawsuits.
“Genetic engineering is being pushed at the expense of other approaches in agriculture that we know work, that has a real cost.” Gurian-Sherman
Embracing GMOs is a double edged sword as it is manifesting elsewhere. Between 2006 and 2011, nearly 2 million acres of friendly native grasses have been lost to corn and soy—two of the staples in processed foods that are driving chronic disease rates in an ever steepening upward incline. The same thing is happening in South America, where native forests are levelled in order to plant soy.

In the absence of the National Biotechnology and Biosafety law dangerous GMOs are entering Uganda unregulated which pose a substantial danger to biodiversity. Elsewhere in Sudan and South Africa they are growing GM cotton, Egypt is growing maize as a result their agricultural sector has grown but Uganda has had a decline. Using GM technology maize and rice resistant to drought or insects have been developed just to rot in research centres, because the National Biotechnology and Biosafety bill 2012 has not been passed into law. In 2012 studies showed that GM crops contributed to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 26.7 billion kgs like removing 11.8 million cars from our roads per year. 

By Kateregga Dennis, BA(ECON), Dip.IEL,Consultant

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