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Date:

August 21, 2002

Subject:

SCIENCE GROUP TOUTS BIOTECH FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

 

SCIENCE GROUP TOUTS BIOTECH FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
World Summit Negotiators Urged to Make Good on Promises

Contact: C.S. Prakash at 1-334-663-1511 ([ mailto:prakash@agbioworld.org
]prakash@agbioworld.org)
Gregory Conko at 1-202-550-2974 ([ mailto:greg@agbioworld.org
]greg@agbioworld.org)


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 ([ http://www.agbioworld.org/
]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.