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Decreasing Self-sufficiency a Cause for Concern

Contact: Dr. C.S. Prakash via Philip Stott (20) 7637-2388
email: Stott2@compuserve.com

LONDON May 31, 2000 - Citing figures recently published by the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) that the United Kingdom is becoming less self-sufficient in food production, the director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, Dr. C.S. Prakash, expressed the following concern: "Great Britain's continued promotion and subsidizing of lower yielding organic agriculture methods, while shunning safe, high-yielding conventional and biotechnology applications, should be a source of concern for anyone who cares about global food security and the environment."

Dr. Prakash is speaking this Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, where he will join Matt Ridley, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and John Vidal in a debate entitled "Is Agricultural Biotechnology Relevant for the Developing World?"

Earlier this year, Rockefeller Foundation President Gordon Conway expressed similar concerns regarding lower yielding organic agriculture. At that time, Conway chastised HRH Prince Charles and Greenpeace for promoting organic agriculture as an appropriate solution to developing world food production needs. Conway was quoted then as stating, "I get irritated by critics who claim organic farming can feed the developing world."

According to the most recently released Scottish Crop Research Institute director's report, the United Kingdom's self-sufficiency in food production has declined by nearly five percentage points since 1989. This coincides with a period of increased conversion of conventional farmland to organic production subsidized with government funds. The SCRI report notes: "Sustainable agriculture should not imply a rejection of conventional practices but the combination of the best opportunities from modern science with a re-adoption of traditional opportunities to conserve resources ... Organic farming does not require best use of the options available, but the best use of the options that have been approved. These options are usually more complex and sometimes less effective than conventional ones."

"If wealthy nations make food production choices that reduce local yields, they raise the burden of ensuring food security in countries already struggling to feed themselves," stated Dr. Prakash. He added, "The developing world can ill-afford anti-science misinformation campaigns perpetuated by special interest groups against biotechnology."

"Biotechnology offers many needed benefits for all people," said Dr. Prakash. "I know that in the absence of these aggressive misinformation campaigns by narrow interest groups the people of Great Britain would be working on ways to support biotechnology and other improved ways of growing more food, on less land with fewer chemicals."