BIO Supports Efforts To Apply Biotechnology To Agriculture In Developing Nations

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 11, 2000) - The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) endorses recommendations contained in a report, released today, from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and an international consortium of scientific societies to apply biotechnology to agriculture in developing nations to fight hunger, improve the environment and help stabilize economies.

In addition to the NAS, the Third World Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London and the Brazilian, Chinese, Indian and Mexican Academies of Sciences participated in preparing the report, entitled Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture.

Val Giddings, BIO’s vice president of food and agriculture, said, We endorse the report’s recommendation for more collaboration between biotechnology companies and the public sector on research and development of biotechnology products for developing nations. But biotechnology companies cannot do it alone.

Biotechnology companies already have made major donations of technological knowledge and inventions to developing nations. Some examples include the donation of the sequence of the rice genome to help nations develop improved varieties of rice; the donation of technology to protect papaya, sweet potatoes and cassava from destructive fungi and viruses; the donation of funding to train scientists worldwide; and the donation of some of the technology to produce vitamin A and iron enhanced rice to fight blindness in children and anemia in adults.

To meet the objectives of the scientific academies, governments around the world will have to reverse their decades-long decline in funding to support basic biological research relevant to plant and animal agriculture.

Giddings added, Another key element of this report is areaffirmation of past findings by these scientific academies on the safety and benefits of applying biotechnology to improve agriculture.

For example, in April the NAS issued a report, ‘Genetically Modified Pest Protected Plants: Science and Regulation,’ that concluded there is no evidence that foods improved through biotechnology are unsafe for consumers or the environment. In fact, the report recommended the use of insect-resistant corn, cotton and soybeans to promote biodiversity.

The April NAS report also reassured consumers about thethoroughness of scientific scrutiny conducted by U.S. regulatory agencies on biotechnology products.

BIO represents more than 900 biotechnology companies, academic institutions and state biotech centers in all 50 U.S. states and 26 nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.