Parliament may evoke Constitution article to override presidential veto on GMO bill

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By Frank Lukwago, New Vision/NECJOGHA

Kampala, Uganda – The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has said the House may now need to evoke Article 91(6)(b) of the Constitution to make the Bill law after it is rejected twice by the President.

Constitutional mandate. Article 91(6)(b) provides that; (where the President) refuses to assent to a Bill which has been reconsidered and passed under paragraph (a) or clause (4) of this Article, the Speaker shall, upon the refusal, if the Bill was so passed with the support of at least two-thirds of all MPs, cause a copy of the Bill to be laid before Parliament, and the Bill shall become law without the assent of the President.

President Museveni last month for the second time declined to sign into law the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012, arguing that there is need to consider safeguarding the ordinary Ugandan.

Museveni first rejected the Bill in December 2017 and it took Parliament almost a full year to reconsider it before passing it with adjustments on November 28 last year.

In a letter to the Speaker of Parliament dated July 22, Museveni said: “I would like to thank all the various stakeholders who have contributed to the development of this law. I, however, regret to inform you that I reject the law in its current form and I am unable to assent to it for reasons I will elaborate in this letter.”
The Bill had been passed by Parliament for the first time. As concerns from various stakeholders were being considered, the name of the Bill was changed from National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill to Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill to make the Bill/law more regulatory than promotional.
The Bill seeks to provide a regulatory framework that facilitates the safe development and application of biotechnology, research, development and release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Biotechnology is any technique that uses living organisms or substances from living organisms to make or modify a product, improve plant, animal breeds or micro-organisms for specific purposes while biosafety is the safe development, transfer, application and use of biotechnology and its products.

However, in a letter read to the House , the President instead introduced new clauses that need to be addressed by Parliament before he accepts the Bill.
“This is very interesting because he (Museveni) has written to me indicating additional new clauses,”  Kadaga said.

Museveni advised Parliament to make a law that safeguards the ecosystem despite scientific innovations in making GMOs.

“Parliament should allow due deliberation and if necessary, the additions and subtraction of clauses until a harmonised position can be reached among stakeholders. We must have a law that allows our scientists to carry out research and make scientific breakthroughs that at the same time safeguard the beautiful ecology and diversity that God has bestowed in our country as well as the interests of the wanainchi (citizens), who depend on the land….” the President wrote.

The President also hinted that the Bill in its current form promotes commercial interests being driven by the private sector hence ignoring the need to protect the ordinary Ugandans from potential harm on health matters.
“With these adjustments, I am confident that this law will not serve the people of Uganda well and these are the people I represent,” Museveni added.

 

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