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June 30, 2000


"City panel fights 'Frankenfoods'" : LETTERS TO THE EDITOR of San


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San Francisco Examiner
Page A-22

The article "City panel fights 'Frankenfoods' " (June 21) indicated that
the San Francisco Commission on the Environment believes biotech foods are
not fully tested commodities. This is far from the case.

The best known and most respected national and international scientific and
policy organizations have closely studied these products and concluded that
biotech foods are as safe as conventional foods.

No fewer than three comprehensive studies have been conducted by the
National Research Council during the past 13 years, all of which declared
that these products are safe, as did studies by the World Health
Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Nuffield
Foundation. Furthermore, the House Subcommittee on Basic Research issued a
comprehensive report after conducting extended hearings on agricultural
biotechnology, which concluded that it "has tremendous potential to provide
better nutrition and help feed a rapidly growing world population."

I'm also surprised that the city commission mentioned in the article is
clearly unaware that agricultural biotechnology has been found to be an
environmentally friendly farming regime. Agricultural biotechnology
promotes the sustainability of natural resources by reducing the use of
energy as well as the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other
agricultural chemicals. Agricultural biotechnology also promotes a
decrease in erosion rates
because biotech crops are resistant to once-harmful weeds and farmers no
longer have to plow under weeds before harvesting or planting.

The absence of this basic understanding about agricultural biotechnology
would suggest that the commissioners are being unduly influenced by junk
science and fear mongers. That is an unfortunate foundation upon which to
build policies for The City.

C.S. Prakash
Professor, plant molecular genetics
Tuskegee University
Tuskegee, Ala.