SCIENCE GROUP TOUTS BIOTECH FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
World Summit Negotiators Urged to Make Good on Promises
Auburn, AL August 22, 2002 -- The AgBioWorld Foundation today urged representatives
to next week's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg,
South Africa to live up to a ten-year-old commitment to facilitate the introduction
of advanced biotechnologies into less developed nations. "At the 1992
Rio Earth Summit, negotiators committed to using biotechnology to advance
sustainable development goals," said AgBioWorld president C.S. Prakash,
a professor of plant genetics at Tuskegee University. "But for the
past ten years, most industrialized nations have been actively preventing
this from becoming a reality."
The Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN's "Agenda 21"
-- adopted by more than 178 governments at the Rio Earth Summit -- both
acknowledge that biotechnology can be used to improve food security, healthcare,
and environmental protection, and the governments committed to fostering
its introduction. Thousands of scientists from around the world, and dozens
of independent scientific bodies, including the UN's World Health Organization
and Food and Agricultural Organization, agree that food biotechnology
poses no more risk to consumers or the environment than conventional breeding.
Most importantly, biotech methods can enhance food productivity in less
developed countries, while reducing pesticide use and improving biodiversity.
"To meet the needs of the 8.3 billion people projected to be on this
planet in 2025, the genetic improvement of food crops must include both
conventional technology and biotechnology," said Dr. Norman Borlaug,
1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and consultant to the International Maize
and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.
Nevertheless, the UN's 2001 Human Development Report found that "the
opposition to yield-enhancing [biotech] crops in industrial countries
with food surpluses could block the development and transfer of those
crops to food-deficit countries." Restrictions and regulations that
are scientifically unjustified could jeopardize the ability of the poorest
nations to feed growing populations, the report noted. "To continue
blocking biotechnology, as many European, Asian, and African nations have,
is a derogation of their duty under Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological
Diversity," said Prakash.
"Extremists in the environmental movement, largely from rich nations
or the privileged strata in poor nations, seem to be doing everything
they can to stop scientific progress in its tracks," added Borlaug.
"It is ironic, that the platform of the anti-biotechnology extremists,
if it were to be adopted, would have grievous consequences for both the
environment and humanity."
The AgBioWorld Foundation (www.AgBioWorld.org)
is a non-profit organization that provides information to teachers, journalists,
policymakers, and the general public about developments in plant science,
biotechnology, and sustainable agriculture.