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Genetically Modified Foods Called Beneficial and Safe

BOSTON March 26, 2000 -- On the eve of demonstrations here against biotechnology, nearly 2,000 scientists from more than 40 countries - including Nobel Prize winners James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, and Norman Borlaug, the "Father of the Green Revolution" - have signed a Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology, according to declaration organizer, Dr. C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee University.

"Biotechnology is a potent and valuable tool that can help make foods more productive and nutritious. And, contrary to claims of anti-biotech activists, biotech products advance environmental goals such as biodiversity," said Prakash, Director of Tuskegee University's Center for Plant Biotechnology Research and member of the USDA's Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology.

Farmers have been genetically modifying crop plants for centuries with more traditional methods of hybridization and selection. The Declaration states that biotechnology, rather than posing any new or greater risks than those more traditional methods used by farmers, provides tools that offer more precise modification. Moreover, biotechnology products are subjected to intensive testing.

"Biotech crops allow farmers to grow more food on less land with less synthetic pesticides and herbicides, ultimately protecting wildlife and habitat," said Prakash. "Foods derived from biotechnology will also offer tremendous direct benefits to the consumers through products such as healthier oils, high protein corn, or hypoallergenic peanuts."

Genetically modified plants can also benefit local and regional agriculture in the developing world, the key to addressing both hunger and low income. "Anti-biotechnology activists accuse scientists of 'playing God' by genetically improving Crops, but it is those so-called environmentalists who are really playing God, not with genes but with the lives of poor and hungry people," said Prakash.

Prakash wrote the Declaration with the help of several colleagues, and began collecting signatures on January 19. Both the declaration text and the list of signatures can be found on the AgBioWorld web site at www.agbioworld.org.