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Date:

May 30, 2000

Subject:

GREAT BRITAIN'S UNFAIR BURDEN

 

GREAT BRITAIN'S UNFAIR BURDEN
Decreasing Self-sufficiency a Cause for Concern

Contact: Dr. C.S. Prakash via Philip Stott (20) 7637-2388;
email: Stott2@compuserve.com
In the USA: Gregory Conko (202) 835-1600

LONDON May 31, 2000 - Citing a report recently published by the Scottish
Crop Research Institute (SCRI), that a major disadvantage of organic
farming is reduced output and that the United Kingdom is becoming less
self-sufficient in food production, the director of the Center for Plant
Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, Dr. C.S. Prakash, expressed
the following concern: "Great Britain's continued promotion of lower
yielding organic agriculture methods, while shunning safe, high-yielding
conventional and biotechnology applications, should be a source of concern
for anyone who cares about global food security and the environment."

Dr. Prakash is speaking this Thursday at the University of London's School
of Oriental and African Studies on the topic, "Is Agricultural
Biotechnology Relevant for the Developing World?" The debate will be held
from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, in the Main Lecture Hall, Phillips
Building, Lower Ground floor. For more information about the debate,
please contact Professor Philip Stott, Geography Department: (20)
7637-2388.

Dr. Prakash noted that "low-yield agriculture means less food and more
ecologically sensitive lands placed under the plow." "Most of the organic
food sold in the UK is imported," he said, "so if wealthy nations demand
food production choices that reduce yields, they raise the burden of
ensuring food security in countries already struggling to feed
themselves." Prakash added, "It's bad enough that by shunning
biotechnology, the UK is reducing its own food productivity. But it's even
worse for the privileged people of Great Britain to impose an organic
standard on the rest of the world. The developing world can ill-afford
anti-science misinformation campaigns perpetuated by special interest
groups against biotechnology."

Earlier this year, Rockefeller Foundation President Gordon Conway
expressed similar concerns regarding lower yielding organic agriculture.
At that time, Conway chastised HRH Prince Charles and Greenpeace for
promoting organic agriculture as an appropriate solution to developing
world food production needs. Conway was quoted then as stating, "I get
irritated by critics who claim organic farming can feed the developing
world."

According to the recently released Scottish Crop Research Institute
report, the ecological benefits of organic agriculture may be "more
apparent than real," but a "major disadvantage of organic farming is the
likelihood of reduced output." Since 1989, as the United Kingdom has
increased conversion of conventional farmland to organic production,
self-sufficiency in food production has declined by nearly five percentage
points, according to the report.

"Biotechnology offers an important tool for people in all countries," said
Dr. Prakash. "I know that, in the absence of these aggressive
misinformation campaigns by narrow interest groups, the people of Great
Britain would be working on ways to support biotechnology and other
improved ways of growing more food, on less land with fewer chemicals."