Decreasing Self-sufficiency a Cause for Concern
Contact: Dr. C.S. Prakash via Philip Stott (20) 7637-2388
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."