Readiness for Environmental Release of Genetically Engineered (GE) Plants in Uganda
Zawedde, Barbara Mugwanya
Oloka, Herbert K.
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Research and development of genetically engineered (GE) crops in Uganda was initiated in 2003 with the launch of a national agricultural biotechnology center at Kawanda in central Uganda. The country has now approved 17 field experiments for GE plants, which were first established in 2006 with the planting of a banana confined field trial that evaluated performance of plants modified to express resistance to black sigatoka disease. Researchers leading the GE experiments have indicated that some of these GE plants are ready for environmental release that is moving beyond confined field testing toward commercialization. The government of Uganda, over the past two decades, has supported processes to put in place an effective national biosafety framework including establishment of a supportive policy environment; creation of a clear institutional framework for handling applications and issuance of permits; building critical capacity for risk analysis; and providing options for public engagement during decision-making. Uganda is ready to make a biosafety decision regarding environmental release of GE plants based on the level of capacity built, progress with priority GE crop research in the country, and the advancement in biosafety systems. Enactment of a national biosafety law that provides for a coordinated framework for implementation by the relevant regulatory agencies will strengthen the system further. In addition, product developers need to submit applications for biosafety approval for environmental release of GE crops so that mechanisms are tested and improved through practice.