Position Statements on Biotechnology
Third World Academies (TWAS)
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.
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.
and Agricultural Organization
Society of African Scientists
United States of America
Biotechnology Advisory Committee
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