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Date:

March 4, 2000

Subject:

SCIENTISTS UNITE FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY

 

Note from Prakash: I just learnt that yesterday the Governer of Iowa Tom
Vilsack mentioned our Agbioworld in his talk at the national press club in
DC as a part of Governer's conference (to say how scientists are now
banding together to support this cause)! I am heartened by the tremendous
response we have received so far to our effort and thanks to each and every
one of you for making this possible. Agbioworld has also been discussed
recently in Nature, Science, Nature Biotechnology, The Scientist, Chronicle
of Higher Education and about 62 newspapers that I could track (sure there
are more).

We have just crossed the 2200 mark in the number of scientists who have
endorsed the declaration at http://www.agbioworld.org

See below for an article in the ISB News Report.

Thanks again,

Prakash
s has prompted one scientist to fight back.
The formidable energy of C. S. Prakash, Director of the Center for Plant
Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University and frequent contributor to
the ISB News Report, is focused on countering media-driven dispersions cast
at the biotechnology industry. To that aim, Prakash has initiated a Web site,
AgBioWorld.org (http://www.AgBioWorld.org), devoted to bringing information
about agricultural bioengineering and GM food to the developing world. "We
in the scientific community felt it necessary to counteract the baseless
attacks so often being made on biotechnology and genetically modified foods,"
opined Prakash at the BIO 2000 conference last March in Boston.

AgBioWorld.org is the home of the widely heralded Declaration of Scientists
In Support Of Agricultural Biotechnology, a petition written by Prakash and a
few colleagues that expresses strong "support for the use of recombinant
DNA as a potent tool for the achievement of a productive and sustainable
agricultural system." The growing list of 2100+ scientists adding their names
to the petition since its inception on January 19 includes Nobel Prize
Laureates James Watson and Norman Borlaug as well as such prominent
individuals as Bruce Ames (winner of the 1998 US President's National Medal
of Science), Gurdev Khush (winner of the World Food Prize), and Ingo
Potrykus (developer of the new "Golden Rice" variety). By signing the
petition, members of AgBioWorld.org profess their belief that biotechnological
advances in plant science "can and should be used to increase crop yields,
grow more nutritious plants and reduce dependence on chemicals in order to
alleviate hunger and to help preserve the environment."

In addition to hosting the Declaration, the Web site is quickly becoming a
repository of essays by and interviews with Professor Prakash that extol the
promise agricultural biotechnology holds for the developing world, and
challenge arguments often cited by opponents of biotechnology. The site also
offers a growing collection of informative, well-reasoned essays on relevant
topics authored by Norman Borlaug, Jimmy Carter, Florence Wambugu, US
Senator Christopher Bond, Peggy G. Lemaux, The Church of England, the
UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and many others. One can also sign
up for participation in a listbot service that periodically distributes,
via email, articles concerning agricultural technology and its effects on
the developing world.

Visitors to this site are invited to join the AgBioView Discussion List to read
and post messages to all subscribers of the service. By joining this active
global discussion group, one has access to the opinions, suggestions,
writings, and queries of a vast array of scientists, physicians, students, and
professors world wide, all acutely involved in examining the merits and
fallacies pervading the GM food debate. For example, discussions in recent
weeks have dealt such varied topic threads as "Pathogenicity and
Weediness," "Atomic GM," "Philosophical Underpinnings of Environmentalist
Movement," "Luddites and the Modern World," "The Greenpeace
`Peer-Reviewed Study,'" "An Open Letter to Protestors," and "Advice to US
Scientists from a British Scientist."

By expressing their support for agricultural biotechnology through the
Declaration, scientists hope to provide assurances to the public, journalists,
and policy makers of the safety of agricultural biotechnology and its
relevance to sustainable development. The Declaration likewise urges policy
makers to "use sound scientific principles in the regulation of products
produced with recombinant DNA." Certainly, the unanimous call for ongoing,
intelligent dialog on this controversial and vital topic has been met in
part by the combined efforts of Professor Prakash and the many scientists
who share his views.

Ruth Irwin
Information Systems for Biotechnology
Virginia Tech
mailto:rirwin@vt.edu