Position Statements on Biotechnology

Third World Academies (TWAS)

Website: http://www.twas.org

Seven science academies urge expanded use of crop biotechnology

In July 2000, representatives of seven of the world's academies of science (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the Third World Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences of the US) released a position paper urging the increased development and use of agricultural biotechnology to help resolve problems of hunger and poverty in developing nations.

The group also provided recommendations to the developers and overseers of Genetic Modification (GM) technology and offered scientific perspectives to the ongoing public debate on the potential role of GM technology.

Some of the highlights of the paper include:

1) During the 21st century, humankind will be confronted with an extraordinary set of challenges. By 2030, it is estimated that 8 billion persons will populate the world -- an increase of 2 billion people from today's population. Hunger and poverty around the globe must be addressed, while the life-support systems provided by the world's natural environment are maintained. Meeting these challenges will require new knowledge generated by continued scientific advances, the development of appropriate new technologies, and a broad dissemination of this knowledge and technology along with the capacity to use it throughout the world. It will also require that wise policies be implemented through informed decision-making on the part of national, state, and local governments in each nation.

2) GM technology was first developed in the 1970s. One of the most prominent developments, apart from the medical applications, has been the development of novel transgenic crop plant varieties. Many millions of hectares of commercially produced transgenic crops such as soybean, cotton, tobacco, potato and maize have been grown annually in a number of countries including the USA (28.7 m hectares in 1999), Canada (4 m), China (0.3 m), and Argentina (6.7 m) (James 1999). However, there has been much debate about the potential benefits and risks that may result from the use of such crops.

3) It is essential that we improve food production and distribution in order to feed and free from hunger a growing world population, while reducing environmental impacts and providing productive employment in low-income areas. This will require a proper and responsible utilization of scientific discoveries and new technologies. The developers and overseers of GM technology applied to plants and micro-organisms should make sure that their efforts address such needs

4) Foods can be produced through the use of GM technology that are, more nutritious, stable in storage and in principle health promoting -- bringing benefits to consumers in both industrialized and developing nations

5) New public sector efforts are required for creating transgenic crops that benefit poor farmers in developing nations and improve their access to food through employment-intensive production of staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cassava, yams, sorghum, plantains and sweet potatoes. Co-operative efforts between the private and public sectors are needed to develop new transgenic crops that benefit consumers, especially in the developing world.

6) Concerted, organized efforts must be undertaken to investigate the potential environmental effects -- both positive and negative -- of GM technologies in their specific applications. These must be assessed against the background of effects from conventional agricultural technologies that are currently in use.

7) Public health regulatory systems need to be put in place in every country to identify and monitor any potential adverse human health effects of transgenic plants, as for any other new variety.

8) Private corporations and research institutions should make arrangements to share GM technology, now held under strict patents and licensing agreements, with responsible scientists for use for hunger alleviation and to enhance food security in developing countries. In addition, special exemptions should be given to the world's poor farmers to protect them from inappropriate restrictions in propagating their crops.

Click here to read the full report prepared under the auspices of the Royal Society of London, the USA National Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Sciences, the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Third World Academy of Sciences.

International Support:

  1. International Organizations
  2. Africa
  3. Asia
  4. Europe
  5. North America
  6. Latin America
  7. Oceania

International Organizations

- Food and Agricultural Organization
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
- World Health Organization
- United Nations Development Programme
- United Nations Environment Programme
- Third World Academy of Sciences

- Agenda 21
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
- Vatican Pontifical Academy on Life

- International Council for Science Union

- International Life Sciences Institute


- International Society of African Scientists
- United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
- Africabio
- South African Minister Ngubane's statement at WSSD
- National Biotechnology Strategy for South Africa
- Former Kenyan President Moi's letter to US President Clinton

- Nigerian President Obasanjo's Statement


- Asian Development Bank
- Chinese Academy of Sciences
- Indian National Academy of Sciences
- National Academy of Science and Technology (Philippines)
- Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir's Speech at BioMalaysia 2002
- Policy Statement on Biotechnology (Philippines)


- Royal Society of London

- Prime Minister Blair's speech

- European Commission

- French Academy of Science

North America


United States of America

- American Medical Association
- American Society for Microbiology
- National Academy of Sciences
- National Research Council
- American Society of Plant Biologists
- Federation of Animal Science Societies
- American Midwest Farmers

  • American Agri-Women
  • American Soybean Association
  • National Chicken Council
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • National Cotton Council
  • National Milk Producers Federation
  • National Potato Council
  • National Turkey Federation
  • United Soybean Board


- Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee
- The Royal Society of Canada (The Canadian Academy of the Sciences and Humanities)
- Industry Canada (Federal Department of Industry)
- The 1998 Canadian Biotechnology Strategy: A Ongoing Renewal Process

Latin America

- Brazilian Academy of Sciences
- Mexican Academy of Sciences


- New Zealand Royal Commission

- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
- Australia New Zealand Food Authority
- Australian Biotechnology: A National Strategy (2000)

- National Farmers' Federation

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