Uganda a Dump With Museveni in Power
Uganda a Dump With Museveni in Power
The Monitor (Kampala), October 6, 2003
By Morris Komakech
Recently, the government of Uganda gave a green light for the so-called Genetically Modified Foods (GMF) to gain access into the Ugandan market. This move by President Yoweri Museveni is consistent with the global agenda of his masters in Washington, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund - popularly referred to as Bretton Woods Institutions in economic circles.
Although "biotechnology" and "genetic modification" are used interchangeably, GM is a special set of technologies that alters the genetic makeup of such living organisms as animals, plants, or bacteria. Biotechnology, a more general term, refers to using living organisms or their components, such as enzymes, to make products that include wine, cheese, beer, and yoghurt.
Combining genes from different organisms is known as recombinant DNA technology, and the resulting organism is said to be "genetically modified," "genetically engineered," or "transgenic." GM products (current or in the pipeline) include medicines and vaccines, foods and food ingredients, feeds, and fibres
This kind of technology is much too advanced for our bleeding nation which is yet failing to find its feet on the concept of good, objective leadership, that would raise the moral high ground for such expeditions in science and other relevant fields of research.
The world over, America, from where the technology was first used, remains the largest grower of the genetically modified foods. In 2000, countries that grew 99% of the global transgenic crops were the United States (68%), Argentina (23%), Canada (7%), and China (1%). Although growth is expected in industrialised countries, it is increasing in developing countries.
The next decade will see exponential progress in GM product development as researchers gain increasing and unprecedented access to genomic resources that are applicable to organisms beyond the scope of individual projects.
However, the progress of GMF as a concept has raised lots of alarm the world over. Its critics say that pollen from GM crops can potentially harm insects like the monarch butterfly and many other varieties which are very crucial in the pollination cycle of plants.
GM crops have herbicide resistant genes migrating into nearby weeds, possibly resulting in a new strain of poison proof super weed.
However, the trouble with the GMF is that many of the companies that are responsible for this technology insert terminator genes in the crops. These genes cause the plant to commit suicide just before it reproduces seed for the next season.
It then leaves farmers with no option but to pay these companies for seeds every time they want to plant, usually huge pharmaceutical conglomerates like the famous Pioneer Hi-bred; Monsanto (a.k.a Pharmacia & Upjohn) and Cagene (in that order) all of which are American companies.
GMF are not popular in Europe and Japan; as a matter of fact, the Western world is striving so much to try to find a taste for natural foods - that is where many people are increasingly investing.
The European Union has halted any approval of GMF; while in Britain it is mandatory that stores notify their customers about GM foods on the shelves.
Japan has resorted to supplying non GM foods to its domestic food manufacturers.
In Uganda, while the country is busy adjusting and (or) adapting to mechanized commercial farming (if at all anyway), allowing the GMF into its almost non-existent market may mean crippling any attempts by indigenous farmers at modernizing agriculture because of state-sponsored unfair competition for the tiny home market..
In Cancun, one of the reasons for the collapse of the negotiations was the poor countries' (with the exception of Uganda of course) demand that wealthy nations eliminate their agricultural subsidies.
It was not simply to gain access to the world's most affluent markets, where food imports now look artificially expensive. They wanted to give farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America a fighting chance in their own domestic markets.
Ugandan farmers, who have no chance of getting substantial subsidies from its government, cannot therefore compete with the farmers from the rich nations.
Current trade agreements prevent developing nations from favouring their own farmers and homegrown produce. Worse, the same agreements allow First World governments to subsidize their own farmers - to the tune of $300 billion a year.
These subsidies allow wealthy nations to sell farm commodities on world markets at well below the cost of production. (In a nutshell, if it costs a farmer $3 to grow a kilogram of groundnuts, but the market is paying $2 a kilogram, the government pays the farmer an extra buck, allowing the farmer to sell the crop for less than he otherwise could.) This is called dumping, and it is illegal under international trade rules.
Both the United States and the European Union are notorious for dumping agricultural products. So where do they dump it? Uganda with its money obsessed President- Yoweri Kaguta Museveni! Indeed, Uganda shall remain a dumping ground as long as Mr Museveni is still at the helm of leadership.
The writer is an international lobbyist and advocate with "Make Trade Fair Oxfam" group, and a member of UPC Youth International Bureau based in North America.
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