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Don't Allow Misleading Claims to Slow Progress

Contact: C.S. Prakash at 334-727-8023 or 334-444-7884 or prakash@agbioworld.org

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 -- As Mexico's President Vincente Fox prepares to meet President Bush, scientists are encouraging him to to allow Mexican farmers and consumers to benefit from new technologies -- such as seeds derived through biotechnology -- which have been used enthusiastically in the United States, Argentina and Canada for years. At the same time, he is being encouraged to disregard scare stories being spread by anti-technology activists.

"It is ironic that Mexico -- the birthplace of corn -- is not taking full advantage of biotech corn seeds which have helped American farmers significantly reduce labor and pesticide use," said Dr. C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee University and the AgBioWorld Foundation. "Mexican scientists at the National Agricultural Research Program (INIFAP), the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have done excellent research, but Mexican farmers have not been allowed to take advantage of it."

Dr. Prakash also supported criticism of Greenpeace and other anti-biotech groups by Mexico's Victor Manuel Villalobos Arambula, Under-Secretary for Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who recently told the newspaper Reforma, "If those who call themselves environmentalists were in fact pure environmentalists, they would be begging for GMOs to be used." Similar views have been expressed by numerous other scientists and agriculture experts on the AgBioWorld discussion boards found at http://www.agbioworld.org.

However, special interest groups and the activists they fund have been spreading stories about "Frankenfood," monarch butterflies and "mystery DNA" -- all of which are not supported by mainstream scientists. Concerns about superweeds, mutant DNA and claims of genetic pollution are unfounded and mislead consumers about the scientific facts and the underlying safety of biotechnology crops. Anecdotal stories about biotech varieties outcrossing with wild relatives and destroying native biodiversity are not supported by evidence; biotech crops are no more likely than traditional crops to outcross with wild species.

It is hoped that President Fox, whose family has a background in farming and agriculture, will continue to be a champion of Mexican farmers and that he will do all that he can to implement the acceptance of biotech crops so that they too can benefit from plants with resistance to disease, viruses, drought and heat stress.

As recent disputes over irrigation water along the border between Texas and Mexico have shown, agricultural resources are limited, and a growing population is likely to strain these resources even further in the future. According to a new report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) entitled 2020 Global Food Outlook: Trends, Alternatives, and Choices, "decisions made now can have wide-reaching effects on food security and nutrition in the future." The sooner the decision is made to bring ag-biotech to Mexico, the greater its impact will be.