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Contact: Anthony Trewavas, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology +44 (0)131 6505328
                email: trewavas@ed.ac.uk

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 funding."