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'Do Not Repeat the Mistakes of Orissa,' They Challenge

Contact: C.S. Prakash at 1-334-444-7884 ; prakash@agbioworld.org
Gregory Conko at 1-202-550-2974; greg@agbioworld.org

Auburn, AL September 5, 2002-A group of scientists and agriculture experts led by the AgBioWorld Foundation are applauding recent activist statements supporting genetically-modified food aid from the United States, which has been refused by some African leaders despite the risk of millions dying from starvation. The group also challenged these and other activists to act responsibly and stop spreading misinformation about foods grown using biotechnology.

Greenpeace's Annette Cotter told the Wall Street Journal, "When it comes to famine, telling anybody not to eat GM food in this situation is a position we absolutely can't take." Juan Lopez of Friends of the Earth said, "We're not saying no to GM foods in the middle of the famine." Unfortunately, these messages conflict with other statements by the same organizations and are not shared by their various allies. Even though the rejection of food aid has been widely condemned, many activist groups, including Friends of the Earth Malaysia, Vandana Shiva's Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, the Institute of Science in Society, and the Third World Network, continue to oppose the shipments.

"It is refreshing to hear that some environmentalists are no longer willing to sacrifice the lives of desperate people in order to further their own agendas," said Dr. C.S. Prakash, Tuskegee University plant genetics professor and president of the AgBioWorld Foundation. "But it is tragic that many others are still unconcerned by the consequences of their actions."

"The world is standing by as southern Africa may experience more deaths every day than all those lost on September 11," said Professor James Ochanda, chairman of the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, based in Nairobi, Kenya. "Providing cover to those who use famine for political means and scaring starving millions into believing that the same food eaten by well-fed and wealthier nations is unsafe is having dire and inexcusable consequences."

Nor is this the first time activist groups opposed food aid shipments. In June 2000, Greenpeace and Shiva's Research Foundation attempted to block US food aid to victims of a cyclone in the Indian state of Orissa, which left over 10,000 dead. "It is time for groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to stop playing public relations games with people's lives and publicly condemn these statements and activities," said Patrick Moore of Greenspirit. Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace who now opposes the organization's tactics, added, "They should urge their members and allies to stop compounding the impact of this and other crises by politicizing life-saving food aid."

The AgBioWorld Foundation and numerous other organizations, including the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, AfricaBio, the Center for Global Food Issues, GreenSpirit, and International Consumers for Civil Society, have challenged activist organizations to formally endorse food aid shipments and to not repeat the mistakes of 'Orissa.' A coalition of African scientists also urged southern African countries to accept donations of genetically modified food aid during the ongoing World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

The AgBioWorld Foundation (http://www.agbioworld.org) is a non-profit organization based in Auburn, Alabama, that provides information to teachers, journalists, policymakers and the general public about developments in plant science, biotechnology and sustainable agriculture.