Contact: Anthony Trewavas, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology +44
LONDON June 1, 2000 - Commenting on the public opinion of agricultural
biotechnology in the UK, Dr. C. S. Prakash, founder of AgBioWorld and
director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University,
invited scientists in this field to seek opportunities in the developing
world where they are wanted and needed. "The work of many British scientists
is being hindered or stopped altogether by activists, celebrities and
policy-makers who have demonized this technology in favor of low-yielding
organic agriculture," said Prakash. "Working in the developing world will
allow these scientists to study important regional problems in countries
where they are appreciated."
Prakash will be speaking Friday, June 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, Gloucestershire at a panel
called "Can Agricultural Biotechnology Live with Organic Agriculture?"
For more information, call Professor Paul Davies at +44 (0)1285 652531.
Dr. Prakash cited the case of Axis Genetics, a British firm which was
developing gene-spliced plants to produce edible vaccines until it was
forced out of business after protests over bioengineered food scared off
investors. "The campaigns being led by narrow interest groups against
the use of biotechnology are causing a brain-drain in Great Britain, and
I encourage scientists who are working on genetically enhanced crops to
study locally the soils, insects and diseases found in the countries where
they are needed the most."
In order to further encourage this, Dr. Prakash has invited scientists
to use his web site, http://www.agbioworld.org, to communicate with research
centres in the developing countries. "In the near future I hope to have
a section on the web where research institutions can post job listings
so they can locate talent more easily."
Biotech crops are gaining more and more acceptance in Asian countries
such as China, where Bt cotton, an insect-resistant strain, is becoming
popular among farmers who wish to save on pesticide costs. Indian authorities
have also recently granted permission for large-scale field trials and
seed production of Bt cotton. And Florence Wambugu, a leading African
plant geneticist, said in a recent interview with New Scientist, "In Africa
GM food could almost literally weed out poverty."
"There are currently 1.3 billion people living on less than $1 a day
who care only about finding their next day's meal. Biotechnology is one
of the best hopes for solving their food needs today, when we have 6 billion
people, and certainly in the next 30 to 50 years, when there will be 9
billion on the globe," Prakash said. "But none of these benefits will
be realized if Western-generated fears about biotechnology halt research