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July 10, 2000


NGDOs and GMOs


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Subj: RE: NGO's
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000 7:39:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Greg Conko


There are NGOs and NGDOs that favor GM/genetic engineering. But a
complete answer to your question depends upon how one defines the terms

Groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and RAFI fit into the
definition of the term Non-Governmental Organization as it is commonly
understood in its political context, meaning an activist organization
seeking to counter the influence of businesses and industry associations
in governmental politics.

Other groups, such as Christian Aid, Action Aid, Doctors Without Borders,
and OxFam, are more along the NG Development Organization line of
non-governmental groups that are primarily interested in providing
services such as food aid and development assistance, medical care,
education and other public goods to people in developing world countries
with poor governmental infrastructure. In general, these groups began as
institutions for directing public aid and charitable contributions to
impoverished populations. Many, however, have leveraged their reputations
as PROVIDERS of public goods, to become LOBBYISTS for political activity.
In that regard, Christian Aid is every bit as much a political NGO as

In the non-political NGDO category, the Carter Center (founded by former
US President Jimmy Carter) and the Sasakawa Africa Association are two
that modestly support the use of genomics and transgenic technologies to
improve agriculture. There are also groups like the CGIAR research
centers (which are essentially public/private partnerships) that are
actively using genomic and transgenic technologies. While they don't
engage in political activism, one could categorize them as modest
advocates of genetic engineering. As a caveat, I should note that many
would quibble with calling the CG centers NGDOs, as they are primarily
funded by several UN agencies and the World Bank, which effectively makes
them quasi-governmental bodies. I would argue, however, that the same
could be said of the more traditional NGDOs, most of which receive
substantial funding from governments and other public institutions.

In the political NGO category, there are a few organizations (primarily
liberal, in the European sense) that "favor" the use of genetic
engineering. The main ones I know about include the Competitive Enterprise
Institute (US), which is my organization, the Hudson Institute (US),
Consumer Alert (US), the Institute of Economic Affairs (UK), and the
Liberty Institute (India). I cannot speak for the other liberal
organizations, but the Competitive Enterprise Institute does not see
itself as the self-appointed representatives of humanity, as do
Greenpeace, FOE, RAFI, etc. Instead, we are simply an advocacy
organization trying to make a rational argument that voluntary,
market-based arrangements, while not perfect, tend to advance
consumer and environmental interests better than political arrangements
do. In this regard, we are not advocates of genetic engineering, per se.
We do, however, believe that absent a realistic health or environmental
threat, the use of genetically engineered products should not be

If you have any other questions about these groups, I'd be more than
happy to answer them as best I can.

-Greg Conko

Steve Daley wrote:

I have noted that all the NGDO policies appear to demand a moratorium on
GM releases either for five years or pending scientific evaluation. Is
there not a single NGDO prepared to support the technological potential of
GMOs? I would be pleased to be proved wrong on this question.