Menu ENN Search

Uganda learns from Zambian GM food controversy

Last year, Zambia's refusal to accept maize donated for the hungry1 inflamed the debate on the use of genetically modified (GM) foods in Africa. Zambia refused to accept a donation of maize grain because the consignment had traces of GM maize and the government feared that farmers might plant the seeds and contaminate local crops. Local people later broke into the stores and stole the GM maize. A recent article in the Lancet asserts that in Uganda, most lay people consider GM food to be so dangerous that not even starving people should be fed such food. The article explains that the Uganda Consumer Protection Association (UCPA) initially argued that there is no need for GM foods in Uganda. The organisation raised fears about possible health hazards, contamination of local strains and loss of traditional farming practice of planting seeds from the previous harvest. On the other hand the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology and the National Agricultural Research Organisation, dismissed these fears as being devoid of scientific evidence.

The article points out that despite having fertile soil and good rainfall, Uganda has a high rate of malnutrition. For instance, 54% of Ugandan children have vitamin A deficiency, 60% have various manifestations of iodine deficiency and 43% of all deaths are associated with malnutrition through lack of protein in the diet. All these are problems that genetic modification of staple crops could reverse, argue supporters of GM foods. According to the author, the main lesson Uganda has learnt from Zambia is the urgent need to develop the country's capacity to handle the benefits and risks associated with genetic modification.

To date, Uganda - like most African countries - does not have a policy or law on GM food. Following months of dialogue, the UCPA has adjusted its tone. They say that legislation must be speeded up, the government and companies must be transparent and that risks should be addressed. The position of the government is that Uganda should not adopt GM crops until the appropriate legal framework is in place, but that research should proceed. The Uganda National Council of Science and Technology has drafted a GM food law, which has been sent to the government and will be discussed first by the cabinet and then in Parliament. At the same time the Council is initiating a countrywide project to raise awareness about GM foods among the general public. Officials in government have made it clear that Uganda may not be in a hurry to consume GM foods, but stress that there is urgent need to prepare for them.

Wendo, C (2003). Uganda tries to learn from Zambia's GM food controversy. The Lancet, vol 361, Feb 8th, pp 500

Show footnotes

1See Field Exchange 18, March 2003. Genetically modified food in emergencies, p14

More like this

FEX: Genetically modified food in emergencies

Ethiopia, Dried out maize harvest with barely any crop on it An editorial in the Lancet draws attention to the rapidly emerging issue of using genetically modified (GM) foods...

FEX: Evolution of a Crisis: a Save the Children UK perspective

By Mark Wright Mark Wright was the Save the Children Programme Officer for Southern Africa from November 2000 to November 2002. This article details Save the Children UK's...

NEX: Unlocking Zambia’s Agricultural Potential for Nutrition Development

William Chilufya William Chilufya is a civil society advocate with 9 years of experience in championing pro poor development in Zambia. He is leading the Zambia Civil Society...

FEX: Biofortification: Helping meet nutrition needs worldwide

News By Dr Erick Boy, Nutrition Head, HarvestPlus Dr Erick Boy is a public health practitioner and has a doctoral degree in nutrition from University of California, Davis. He...

FEX: Modification of Complementary Foods in Zambia

By Victor Ochieng Owino Victor is currently a PhD student at the Centre for International Child Health, University College London. A Food Science and Technology graduate, he...

FEX: The potential of nutrition-sensitive Conservation Agriculture: lessons from Zambia

By Anne Marie Mayer, Marjolein-Mwanamwenge and Carl Whal Anne Marie Mayer works as a freelance nutritionist specialising in the links between agriculture and nutrition. She...

FEX: Seed vouchers and fairs in Zimbabwe - CRS (Special Supplement 3)

In 2001/2, Zimbabwe experienced one of the worst droughts in ten years. Other factors which contributed to create a food crisis included economic decline, characterised by high...

FEX: CRS seed vouchers & fairs – an innovative approach to help farm communities recover from disaster

Summary of internal evaluation Exchange of seed vouchers for seed in Kiritiri, Mbeere district CRS have recently been involved in two innovative seeds projects in northern...

Blog post: Can the SUN Movement benefit from Africa’s political blocs?

How relevant are Africa's political blocs in advancing the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement agenda? Can the movement tap into the initiatives by the region's political blocs...

FEX: Impact of Food Delays on Refugees

Author: Lina Payne - Food Researcher Resettlement programme, N. Uganda, Oxfam Between 1995 and 1997, Ikafe and Imvepi settlements in Arua District, North Uganda,...

FEX: Support for primary production (Special Supplement 3)

7.1 Introduction This section focuses on supporting agricultural production, in particular farming and livestock production, as livelihood strategies. Production support can...

FEX: Shared experiences of Southern Africa crisis

Malawi 2002, Medical Missionaries of Mary distribute Concern funded maize to most needy in Lilongwe Summary of meeting By Marie McGrath (ENN) On November 5th, 2002 a meeting...

FEX: Improving food security and addressing nutrition of vulnerable farming communities affected by conflict and natural disaster in mid-western Nepal

By Guido Agostinucci Guido Agostinucci is an agronomist who collaborated with the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Viterbo and worked as consultant with FAO since...

FEX: Malawi food shortage: how did it happen and could it have been prevented?

By Sarah King Sarah King is currently working as an Emergency Capacity Building Officer with Christian Aid. Having completed a MSc in Public Health Nutrition at LSHTM, she...

FEX: Operational factors in the integration of nutrition into agriculture and livelihoods programmes in Zimbabwe

By Anne-Marie Mayer, Rose Ndolo and Jane Keylock View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici Anne-Marie Mayer works as a consultant for programmes at...

FEX: How do low-cost, home-grown school-feeding programmes work? Lessons learned from Malawi

How do low-cost, home-grown school-feeding programmes work? Lessons learned from Malawi By Devon Jaffe-Urell, Bernard Chigaya, Alexander Mwangonde, Victor...

NEX: Singing the same song: Nutrition-sensitive agriculture messages in Zambia

Bertha Munthali has worked for ten years on nutrition in agriculture in Africa, and is currently advisor for the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis...

FEX: Meeting Point : Local CBO in Uganda

By Fiona Mitchell, GOAL, and Mary Corbett, ENN A Meeting Point staff member with a young child Fiona Mitchell is the Development Programme Coordinator, GOAL Uganda The...

FEX: Rhino Camp, Uganda: A Refugee Perspective

By Grace Abu Late last year, nutritionist Grace Abu, visited the Rhino Refugee camp in Northern Uganda for a two day period to see family and friends. This article describes...

FEX: AJFAND special issue on biofortification

Summary of research1 Over the last decade HarvestPlus CGIAR2 national partners have developed over 150 varieties of 11 micronutrient-rich staples, including rice, wheat,...

Close

Reference this page

Uganda learns from Zambian GM food controversy. Field Exchange 19, July 2003. p17. www.ennonline.net/fex/19/uganda

(ENN_3669)

Close

Download to a citation manager

The below files can be imported into your preferred reference management tool, most tools will allow you to manually import the RIS file. Endnote may required a specific filter file to be used.