SOURCE: Conversations About Plant Biotechnology

November 05, 2007 13:40 ET

Fourteen Global Experts Comment on the Safety and Use of Genetically Modified Food Crops

Online Video Captures Support for Contributions to the Environment and Third-World Farmers

ST. LOUIS, MO--(Marketwire - November 5, 2007) - In a new online video and podcast released today, 14 globally recognized and distinguished scientists, economists and thought leaders discuss the use of genetically modified food crops over the last decade -- including their proven safety, benefits to the environment, and contributions to the lives of third-world farm families and communities.

"Here we have a very versatile technology, which has the power and the capacity to contribute to a more effective, a more benign, a more sustainable agriculture," says Dr. Clive James, agricultural scientist and founder of the not-for-profit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). "80 percent of the poor people that we have on this planet today are farmers or people that work on farms. So, therefore, if you can introduce biotech crops... that will increase the income of these people, then you are making a direct contribution to the alleviation of poverty."

In 2006, more than 10.3 million farmers across 22 countries grew more than 252 million acres (102 million hectares) of genetically modified soybean, corn, canola and cotton crops. The vast majority (9.3 million) of those farmers were resource-poor farmers from developing countries, such as China, India, the Philippines and South Africa, where increased income from genetically modified food crops is contributing to the alleviation of poverty.

"So we can't just harshly and violently oppose this technology when we know that it can work for our farmers," explains the Honorable Dr. Ruth Oniang'o, a member of the Kenyan Parliament and founder of the not-for-profit Rural Outreach Program. "Because the people who are opposed to these technologies are not the farmers themselves -- they are people who can afford food."

"If we give important technologies to grow more food in poor places -- better seed varieties, better ways to manage soil nutrients, better ways to manage plant pathogens -- ... it's going to create livelihoods. It's going to create income in the villages. It's going to convert what is now sub-subsistence agriculture into commercial farming," says Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, quetelet professor of Sustainable Development and professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, director of The Earth Institute, and director of The United Nations Millennium Project.

"Looking ahead to the year 2050, we will have to produce the food and fiber for something approaching 10 billion people," says Dr. Norman Borlaug, who received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership role in the "Green Revolution" to increase food production and currently serves as senior consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and as president of the Sasakawa Africa Association. "Can we do it? I say yes. If we continue to develop technology -- including more widespread application of biotechnology."

In addition to Drs. Borlaug, James, Oniango'o and Sachs, the new video features comments from:

--  Dr. Klaus Ammann, honorary professor emeritus and former director of
    the Botanical Garden at the University of Bern, Switzerland
--  Dr. Francisco Aragão, senior researcher in Genetic Research and
    Biotechnology at Embrapa in Brazil
--  Dr. Roger Beachy, researcher and founding president of the not-for-
    profit Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in the USA
--  Dr. Laveesh Bhandari, economist and director of Indicus Analytics in
--  Graham Brookes, agricultural economist and director of PG Economics in
--  Mary Lee Chin, M.S., R.D. of Nutrition Edge Communications in the USA
--  Dr. Luciano Di Ciero, scientific researcher in the Forest Genetic
    Research and Biotechnology Laboratory at ESALQ, University of São Paulo,
--  Dr. C. Ford Runge, director of The Center for International Food and
    Agricultural Policy, and professor of Applied Economics and Law at The
    University of Minnesota, USA
--  The Honorable Lord Taverne, member of the United Kingdom's House of
    Lords and founder of the charity Sense about Science
--  Francois Traore, president of the National Cotton Producers Union of
    Burkina Faso

These experts discuss the proven safety of genetically modified food crops, their contributions to the environment over the last decade, and the inherent value for farmers in third-world countries. The video can be viewed, downloaded or embedded into another Web site from the "Conversations about Plant Biotechnology" Web site. The transcript and additional comments from many of these experts are also available.

"Conversations about Plant Biotechnology" is designed to give a voice and a face to the farmers and families who grow GM crops and the experts who research and study the benefits of biotechnology in agriculture. The Web site contains more than 70 two- to three-minute, extremely candid, straightforward and compelling video segments with the people who know the technology best. The Web site is hosted by Monsanto Company -- a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.

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