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,"
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.