Washington - April 3, 2000 - A multi-year, industry-led public information program begins today to share information about agricultural biotechnology with people in the United States and Canada. The program, sponsored by the Council for Biotechnology Information, will include a Web site, toll-free consumer number, information materials, and television and print advertising.

The program also includes plans to have safety data for commercial products available through the Web site; sponsor a separate, university-managed Web site which would serve as an on-going repository for safety and environmental data from the companies and other sources; and develop white papers on a variety of food safety and environmental issues.

The Council for Biotechnology Information is a coalition of seven leading companies with an interest in biotechnology, plus the industry trade association -- the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). The Council's goal is to make it easier for people to get information about biotechnology.

The program is intended to help people in the U.S. and Canada answer questions they may have and provide them with accurate information from a variety of industry, academic, scientific, government and third party sources.

The founding members of the Council are: Aventis CropScience, BASF, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis, Zeneca Ag Products and BIO. Associated with the Council are a range of other organizations and trade and industry groups that support the use of the technology and believe in its current and future benefits.

"Clearly, there is a need for those beyond the research, nutrition and public health communities to have a better understanding of the whole spectrum of benefits to be gained from biotechnology. We have the ability to offer products that enable people to improve their lives, and must take every opportunity to ensure that the possibilities of biotechnology are realized," said Carl B. Feldbaum, BIO president. "We can accomplish this only by increasing awareness and fostering an open conversation with people."

"Food biotechnology has enormous potential for developing more nutritious foods and addressing health and hunger problems in our fast-growing world," said Dr. Louis Sullivan, president of Morehouse School of Medicine and former Secretary of Health and Human Services. "It is important to encourage responsible development of these technologies and inform the public of them." Dr. Sullivan serves as a Distinguished Advisor to the Council.

Key elements of the program include:

  • A Web site: features facts and information about biotechnology, including data from a variety of sources, a discussion of benefits, links to other academic, government and scientific organization sites, and third-party opinions and referrals.
  • A focus on the science of biotechnology, including making safety data on commercial products available through the Web site; the development of white papers; and sponsorship of a university-managed Web site containing science data that will be activated later this year.
  • A toll-free consumer number: People can call the Council at 800/980-8660 for a free copy of the Council's brochure, "Good Ideas Are Growing."
  • Television and print advertising: The advertising element of the effort is designed to raise awareness about biotechnology, and direct people to sources for more information, starting with the Council's Web site and toll-free telephone number. The ads feature real people who have benefited from biotechnology in medical and agricultural applications.
  • Outreach to a broad cross section of organizations and individuals that have an interest in biotechnology. In addition, the Council will work with organizations that are already providing people with science-based information about biotechnology.

"The developing world could certainly use an increase in the food supply and the use of biotech crops is one way to make it happen," said Professor Jennifer A. Thomson, head of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Cape Town. "Biotech crops can help cut down on the losses due to pests and disease, and these crops can introduce drought tolerance so that marginal lands can be planted." Professor Thomson serves as a Distinguished Advisor to the Council.

The Council anticipates this integrated program to be a three- to five-year effort. Currently, about $50 million has been committed.



Aventis CropScience: Rick Rountree, 919-549-2310
BASF: Greg Theis, 202/682-9462
Dow Chemical: Ted McKinney, 317/337-4792
DuPont: Susan Gaffney, 302-774-2698
Monsanto: Jeffrey A. Bergau, 312-840-5457
Novartis: Karen Gallivan, 612-593-7343
Zeneca Ag Products: Ed Ready, 302-886-1184
For Canada information:
Art Stirling, Chatham ON, 800-265-9435
Steve Meister, Regina SK, 306-721-4551