July 17, 2013

Drug Authority Wants Law to Regulate GMO Drugs

The pharmaceutical industry in Uganda has continued to use medicines from genetically modified organisms (GMO) without a law that could regulate the practice, a situation that is worrying the National Drugs Authority.

Gordon Sematiko, the Executive Secretary of National Drugs Authority, the drugs regulatory body says he is concerned about the absence of a law that could control the use of the genetically modified organisms in the pharmaceutical industry. Semtaiko said that they needed a law to regulate the application of GMOs, describing it as ‘what is already in our vicinity’.

Gordon Sematiko, the NDA Executive Director
Gordon Sematiko, the NDA Executive Director

He explained that while in China recently at the instruction of the president to invite Chinese investors who could produce vaccines for livestock, he discovered that the Chinese were already producing veterinary drugs through genetic modification.

Sematiko added that the drugs regulatory authority was in support of the Bio safety and Biotechnology Bill presently before parliament adding that he gets puzzled that many people were only concerned about presence of GMOs in the food and agriculture sector and not in the pharmaceutical industry.

The NDA chief said the drugs regulatory authority could not do much in the absence of a legal provision in the country on genetically modified organisms. He added that such regulatory provisions need to be enacted fast because he said neighbouring countries such as Kenya and Tanzania were already have the laws and involved in GMO applications.

Among the biotechnology-generated medicine in the country is insulin that is used to treat diabetes.

There has been suspicion and debate on GMO ranging from safety to its presence in the country with focus mainly on agriculture. Scientists at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories at Kawanda say that there are GMO confined trials to develop varieties of crops such as bananas and maize that could tolerate drought and diseases.

However, others say that with a porous border and an absence of a law regulating GMO in the country, there is a possibility that GMO products were already in the country.

Denis Hamson Obua, the chairman of Parliamentary committee of Science and Technology has said they plan to table the Bio Safety and Biotechnology Bill before December. The bill provides for regulation of GMOs in the country.

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