Agency For Transformation

GMO DEBATE IN UGANDA: What I told Havard’s Prof. Calestous Juma

Dear Prof. Calestous,

I missed your vehement presentation in Kampala- I was away in Rukungiri (South Western Uganda) picking (harvesting) purely organic grown coffee. I however – thanks to technology followed on Facebook and Twitter. My friend Sarah Bireete, a Kampala based lawyer was feeding me in. You see, in spite of 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 – we can feed the world. So why do we need GMO? You see, 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 labeled (you have been following these demands in e.g. California). If Uganda, welcomes spread of GM, where will Uganda sell its GM coffee, cotton, bananas, onions etc? Apart from the science of it, if we take a purely economic point of view, GM 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 where as 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. At the end of the day, it is our choice.