Parliament yesterday passed a Bill intended to provide a regulatory framework that facilitates the safe development and application of biotechnology in Uganda.
The Bill, formerly called the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012 has now been renamed the Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill 2018 following a recommendation by the President, who declined to assent to the proposed law raising 12 issues that required improvement. Parliament initially passed the Bill in 2017.
Among the concerns raised by the President included establishment of several gene banks and seed banks across the country to preserve the biodiversity, which Parliament consented to providing for the establishment of bank to preserve the uncontaminated indigenous plants and animal varieties.
The Vice Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Lawrence Akugizibwe said that it clearly stated in the Bill that genetic modification should be restricted to plants and animals.
“The President wanted it to be made clear that genetic modifications are restricted to plants and domestic animals so that scientists do not embark on modifying human beings,” he noted.
Akugizibwe also added that the Committee agreed with the President on the proposal to have a containment of Genetically Engineered Materials (GEMs) so that they do not mix with indigenous species by way of cross breeding and pollination.
“The President raised concern over the fact that the GEMs might be mixed with indigenous organisms and a problem arises when there is no fall back option,” he said.
Akugizibwe further noted that the committee agreed with the President that the developer of a GEM is fully liable for any negative repercussions that arise from a GEM.
“A person who owns a patent to GEM is strictly liable for any harm it may cause and must be tasked to explain whether the harm caused was intentional or not,” he said.
The MPs also ensured that provision of strict liability is inserted to cater for liability for body corporates.