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Crop Biotech Update

Journalists in Uganda Urged to Support Passing of Biotech Law through Factual Reporting

May 31, 2017

The Director for Crop Resources in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries (MAAIF), Mr. Okasaai Opolot, has appealed to journalists in Uganda to increase their efforts in informing the public about the products of modern biotechnology. He also urged them to enhance their efforts in helping the policy makers appreciate the relevance of regulating this technology so as to hasten the process of making the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill into law. He noted that his Ministry is committed to supporting the Minister for Science and Technology to get the Bill passed. Mr. Opolot, who represented the Minister of Agriculture as Chief Guest at the maiden Uganda Biotechnology Media Awards held on May 26, 2017 at Sheraton Kampala Hotel, commended the journalists for being committed to reporting about agriculture including the advances in biotechnology. He encouraged them to always report factual information. He challenged the organizers and all biotech communicators to ensure that all media houses in the country are ably equipped to report about biotechnology and biosafety.

The Media Awards was organized by the Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) to recognize the commitment of journalists in reporting about complex scientific topics like biotechnology, and for increasing public awareness of these modern sciences. The event was organized in collaboration with Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC), WEMA Project Uganda, and Science Foundation for Livelihood and Development (SCIFODE). A total of 27 submissions were received in radio, print, online, and television reporting. The journalists received crystal plaques and different tokens to help them improve the quality of their reporting.

A keynote address on Improving Science Communication in the Media was delivered by Mr. Charles Odoobo Bichachi—the Executive Editor of the Daily Monitor newspaper. He cautioned the journalists to take their time to do research on the topic in science and/or agriculture so that they are well-informed even before starting to write. "Write the complete picture including answers to the anticipated questions that readers will be asking, for example, when you talk about recently released seeds, tell the farmers where to get them," he added. He warned scientist against having conversations only among themselves instead they should invest more in conversations with end-users of the products they are developing.

The Chairperson of the Judges, Dr. Charles Wendo, Chairperson for the Uganda Health Communication Alliance, noted that the quality and number of submissions received were a good indicator of the courage and commitment of journalists to creating mass awareness about the relevance of products and regulation of biotechnology. He called for more inclusion of the voices of extension workers in biotechnology education and awareness.

UBIC's Coordinator—Dr. Barbara Zawedde—thanked the journalists for their efficient reporting and urged them to encourage more of their peers to partner with scientists to help the populace to make informed decisions on biotechnology.

Contact the UBIC Coordinator for more information: ubic.nacrri@gmail.com.