By Arthur Makara
I would like to appreciate your continuous efforts to harness science, technology and innovation in Uganda for socioeconomic transformation. We scientists appreciate your recent intervention by creating of a fully-fledged Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoSTI).
As the Ministry entrenches its foot, it needs your continuous support to build this sector that is the major cornerstone of Uganda’s transformation into a middle status economy in the near future.
When it comes to the rapidly evolving field of biotechnology, the country made a highly progressive and bold move in 2008 when The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy that was approved by Cabinet. Unfortunately, those that are opposed to the Biosafety Bill include cabinet ministers. I wonder whether they know this Bill is to operationalise a government policy.
Moreover, some of them are in cohorts with foreign forces led by those living outside the country especially in Canada which has immensely developed due to technological advancements including use of agricultural biotechnology.
Those of us living in such developed nations should appreciate and borrow progressive lessons for Uganda. But some choose to advance the interests of the developed world whose hidden goal is to keep Africa poor through the so called “organic” and small-scale farmer movements.
These anti-science activist groups, are in a state of confusion because of your clear supportive position of the enactment of the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill into law. They thrive on spreading misinformation to the largely ignorant and gullible members of the public, including some MPs.
They do not understand that it is scientific advancements that transform societies. It is the science outcomes from China, India, South Korea, USA, Brazil, Europe and India that we consume on a daily basis, making our economies in Africa very weak due to hemorrhage of our currencies.
We need home-grown scientific, technological and innovation revolution to wean ourselves from dependency on foreign simple technologies, and to strengthen our currency through more local consumption and exports. We are markets for the developed economies thus supporting the anti-progress propaganda.
I appreciate your recent interest in supporting youth groups, to sharpen their skills and to improve on the quality of home-made products. That is the right way to go in the direction of transformation. Mr President, an article against the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill on Wednesday, July 26 in one of the dailies made a false and scientifically disputable claims.
Contrary to what some perpetually untruthful anti-biotech critics say, the biotech revolution has the potential to make the Ugandan tea to be grown more organically – particularly if diseases and pests of tea are addressed through breeding of quicker maturing, disease resistant and robust tea varieties, lesser pests and fungicides will be used on it.
Currently the tea estates owners apply fertilizers, spray against tea diseases tea leaf rot caused by fungi Corticium invisum and C. thae), the tea red leaf rust caused by fungus Cephalarus mycoidea, black root caused by fungus Rosellina areuata. These are controlled by spraying with of large quantities of fungicides.
Tea also has pests and vermin such as mites, leafhoppers, aphids and snakes that are controlled through spraying of pesticides and acaricides. These sprays are done at regular intervals or as and when such diseases and pests become rampant. Ugandan tea is, therefore, referred to as conventional tea in the organic world.
Currently Ugandan tea is not organic, if we go by the definition of the global organic movement. The tea estate owners have not claimed that their tea is organic, but some anti-biotech critics is pushing “organic narrative” to fit their ill-conceived interests. The anti-biotech extremists know that you Mr President is too informed to be confused with their rhetoric and propaganda against the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012 under the fake guise of protecting “Mukwano and Igara” tea.
The primary strategy of anti-biotech extremists and some uninformed leaders is to block any opportunity for this to be realised in order to serve their private interests. Mr President, we in the science world appreciate the fact that you understand the intentions of such groups and individuals.
We acknowledge and appreciate the remarks in support of the science of biotechnology that you recently made when opening the 25th Source of the National Agricultural and Trade show in lJinja on Tuesday July 18, 2017.
We are comforted by the fact that with your foresighted leadership, the farmers will soon start benefiting from the efforts of your scientists through crop improvement after that enactment of the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill into law that will guide and regulate their work. The anti-science groups and their allies should be ignored for a brighter future of Uganda. For God and My Country. (Arthur Makara is the Executive Director Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development- firstname.lastname@example.org)