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Genetically Modified Foods Called Beneficial and Safe

Contact: Gregory Conko 301-775-1084

MONTREAL, QUEBEC January 22, 2000 - More than 600 scientists from around the world signed a "Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology," that was released today at a conference held to coincide with UN negotiations on a Biosafety Protocol. "We in the scientific community felt it necessary to counteract the baseless attacks so often being made on biotechnology and genetically modified foods," said C.S. Prakash, a biology professor at Tuskegee University in the United States, and organizer of the declaration. "Biotechnology is a potent and valuable tool that can help make foods more productive and nutritious," he added. "And, contrary to anti-biotech activists, they can even advance environmental goals such as biodiversity."

Farmers have been genetically modifying crop plants for centuries with more traditional methods of hybridization and selection. According to the Declaration, using biotechnology to modify plants today does not pose any new or greater risks than those more traditional methods posed. And because the newer genetic tools are more precise, they may even be safer. "But their greater productivity allows farmers to grow more food on less land with less synthetic pesticides and herbicides, ultimately protecting wildlife and habitat," added Prakash.

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.

Dr. Prakash, who serves as Director of Tuskegee University's Center for Plant Biotechnology Research, wrote the Declaration with the help of several collegues, and began collecting signatures on January 19. "We were overwhelmed at how quickly the signatures began pouring in," said Prakash. "That so many scientists responded so quickly shows how important this issue is to them and to the world." Signatures will continue to be collected indefinitely, and the Declaration will be shared around the world with policymakers, the news media, and the public.

Dr. Prakash established the AgBioWorld web site to support the "Declaration of Scientists in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology." Both the declaration text and the list of signatures, which will be updated periodically, can be found on the AgBioWorld web site at www.AgBioWorld.org.


AgBioWorld (www.AgBioWorld.org) is sponsored and maintained by Professor C.S. Prakash, Director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University. Information requests can be sent to Professor Prakash at prakash@tuskegee.edu.