Monday 19 November 2018


Greetings to you dear readers,
Science and technology is an area that has been a great driver propelling the Nation into a middle income country despite many challenges faced.
It's important that one recognizes and appreciates the efforts by government to fund, promote and encourage citizens to embrace science, to that, I'm grateful.
However, scientists have worked towards designing products and finding solutions at a low financial and legal support from government and the community, it's a shame to all those that speak loudly for science yet they never concentrate on the burning issues in the field that I today think are lack of funds and legal frameworks
While in the lab, scientists make it practical for our wishes to be put into reality, there has been a number of technologies developed that have turned the world into a better place to live.
Failure for them to have happened, we would have been too late to stand up against the consequences of not being modern such as our environment becoming inhabitable, means of communication not being reliable, resources and knowledge being insufficient to initiate problem solving.
I will put up a few issues in the field of biotechnology that I think should be addressed sooner than later if our scientists are to feel relevant.

Biotechnology in policy; A case of Uganda
Uganda is a contracting party to the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) whose aim as stated in Article 1 of the protocol is to  contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on trans-boundary movements.
This in simple terms aims at protecting humans and biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal life) from potential harm as a result of living modified organisms and to also regulate their movement across country boundaries.
Uganda is also a contracting party to the Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD) that requires signatories to take appropriate means including legal and administrative to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with utilization of living modified organisms.
Both of these international agreements demand that Uganda takes keen interest in matters concerning biosafety and manipulation of biodiversity.
To better effect these agreements, a local biotechnology and biosafety law is mandatory to ensure the safe application of biotechnology and protection of the ever decreasing biodiversty lost to developments associated with high population.
Without this law in place, genetically modified (GM) crops are not released to farmers and consumers due to safety concerns thus research will not benefit the nation since all developments will end in confinement fields.
It is a daily heartbreak for our local scientists that invested a lot in their education and research, only to develop solutions that meet resistance.
These GM crops are tailored to solve the real challenges of a developing country, you can read my previous posts to learn more about the potential benefits.
In my view, I think that for as long as an innovation has been assessed for risks and benefits, with so the results being beneficiary with little or no harm, such an innovation be accepted.
This assessment should be legal and arrived at by a consensus that involves policy makers, scientists and the benefiting community.
Scientists need the right laws to feel relevant and speed up inventions.
The regulatory law aside, the issue of intellectual property rights in Uganda is so unexplored and looked at as if it belongs to the next decade.
Musicians came up to demand copyright on their pieces but there has been no positive response in three years now.
I think people need to be educated on intellectual property rights such that they accept them for inventors to directly benefit from their ideas and own them.
These issues regarding law if tackled serve as an incentive to encourage invention.

Funding in Uganda is limited across most of the sectors, however, In my observation, emergencies are well funded, which is a beautiful thing. It somehow suggests that we need a to be acted upon by a really big force to get us moving in the direction we should have taken without any force.
A lot of research goes on in other countries that people would consider useless yet it will be useful in a short time when it provides a solution that can't be found overnight under tight demand.
I want to agree that we have limited funds to do research that we wont benefit from in the near future, however, we are faced with challenges that scientists aim to solve but are constrained by under-funding from government.
The "big jackpot" funds availed for research are from foreign organizations with predetermined areas of research that do not necessarily address the challenges Ugandans face.
Makerere university is regarded one of the best research institutions, this in itself implies that we have skilled man power and still producing more only to be exported to other countries.

Delaying right laws in science delays useful innovation.

Daka Anthony

Thursday 15 February 2018


There is usually a point of no return but not in relation to activism especially where you have people's interests at heart. For a long time there has been a desire by the President to improve agriculture which he believes is the back bone of Uganda's economy, of course we have heard this but does it add up to a level that we can be proud of? Of course not, we export products that are unfinished, of low standard, with poor technology to keep them fresh until they reach the best market and worst of all policing has its own many weaknesses.
Basically with all these loop holes you can not convince the majority to believe that agriculture contributes to our economy the percentage it really should be contributing.
I find it difficult figuring out why the president that wanted the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill passed would return it to parliament after the legislators had finally put a tick on it.
 There are a whole lot of departments that are keeping quiet with the solutions, for a science cause, let me speak out for the scientists, the biotechnologists.
As you may have read my previous articles, there are advantages of GMOs that I listed and today I want us to focus on how best they can boost how much the farmer and country can earn.
There was a complain about GMO propagules (what is planted to grow into a new plant), that when you plant the seeds for example, they will grow but will not germinate if the harvested seeds are planted. This is called gene termination technology and it is a kind of copyright. It is so unfortunate that Ugandans would have a problem with this, it's a culture we have developed of wanting to have things free over and over again, let us get into the world of bills where you make money with money. Gene termination technology prevents the contamination of non GMO crops, this is an answer to the president's worry about traditional species possibly going extinct, however, even before you think about their extinction, we have been conserving these plants in research labs by germplasm conservation. Like I usually say, the scientist is more scared than you are but the main difference is that we provide the solutions that you end up understanding as problems.
The GMO has a higher harvest output and less input. Look at this scenario, you buy these seeds, plant them and do not spray, you experience a faster growth and you are least affected by climate change, and when you harvest, it is a jackpot of returns. Why on earth with all that saving and big returns on investment would a farmer fail to buy seeds for the next planting season?  Is it the business mind of calculating profits lacking?
There is also the advantage of increasing the shelf life of perishables so that the products reach the market without having post harvest losses due to ripening, rotting or wilting depending on the produce in question.
The remaining task is left to the legislators to make policies that will benefit the farmers, they are tired of farming with no returns.
The science is there, everything is set and only awaiting you to change our negativity or consider research in Uganda doomed. One thing people should know is that legislators could be asking the wrong people or the wrong legislators asking the right people, the former is coupled with a knowledge gap that would yield less or no impact their final decision.
I will refer you to watch the documentary film Food Evolution on Amazon Video, Hulu, iTunes, just click on those links.  The documentary shows you how biotechnology has saved farmers even after its initial heavy criticism.
Have a great time as you embrace biotechnology for sustainability.

Bsc In Biotechnology