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[ENTEBBE] Uganda has been both praised and criticised for its efforts to implement national biosafety policies, as it and its East African neighbours take steps to adopt a common approach to biotechnology.

Fee Chon Chong-Low of the United Nations Environment Programme Global Environment Facility (UNEP–GEF) made the comments at a meeting last week (19 September) in Kampala.

Fee was reporting on the progress of four African nations in implementing national biosafety frameworks, as required by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity's Cartagena Protocol to protect biodiversity from any potential harm posed by genetically modified (GM) organisms.

She said Cameroon was leading the way, followed by Kenya, Uganda and Namibia, adding: "However, Uganda has performed a lot better than the rest in public sensitisation and encouraging public participation."

She praised Charles Mugoya for leading the development of Uganda's national biosafety framework despite a lack of cooperation from some sections of the government.

But she expressed disappointment with Uganda's failure to set up a biosafety 'clearing house' to share information on the movement of GM organisms.

She pointed out that US$20,000 had been allocated for this purpose but that there had been "no results".

Uganda and its neighbours in the East African Community — Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda — are moving towards a common political, legal and regulatory framework on biotechnology and biosafety.

The three nations are at different levels of biotechnology development, with Kenya carrying out confined field trials on GM maize, cotton and potato.

Uganda is preparing a confined field trial of bananas genetically modified to resist black sigatoka disease, a serious fungal condition. Tanzania, meanwhile is still developing its national biosafety framework.

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