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GM article -- 289292 (http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtPrint/EMIHC000/333/7228/289292.html?k

Title: Send this page to a friend.
FYI...somehow, I think the biotech companies will take every greedy monetary advantage (patents --->price fixing/gauging) before succumbing to humble charity to fight world hunger.  Additionally, no independent studies have been able to prove GM crops are safe for consumption &/or environment.
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Scientists: Genetically Modified Crops Crucial To Fight World Hunger

Associated Press
July 11, 2000

LONDON (AP) - To combat world hunger, rich nations must substantially step up funding of research into genetically modified crops and poor farmers in the developing world must be protected from corporate control of the technology, a group of science academies urged Tuesday.

In an unprecedented report by seven independent academies from both the developed and developing world, leading scientists agreed that genetic modification of crops is crucial to any attempt to address the growing problem of increasing population and diminishing land on which to grow food.

"Eight-hundred million people don't have access to enough food now," said Brian Heap, vice president of Britain's Royal Society and chairman of the group that wrote the report.

"Increasing production without increasing land use will require substantial increases in yields per acre. This technology needs to be used in the future," Heap said.

Genetically modified, or transgenic, crops are created when scientists introduce into a plant a gene from another species. The technique can be used to give crops new, tailored traits, such as resistance to disease and pests, built-in extra vitamins, vaccines or better tolerance to drought.

The academies' report, launched in London by the Royal Society, urged companies and research institutions to share their knowledge and called for a ban on broad patents covering the GM technology.

Corporations must have incentives to produce characteristics needed in the developing world, and small farmers in developing nations should enjoy special exemptions from licensing agreements, the report said.

Meanwhile, the public sector must create more genetically modified crops that benefit poor farmers in developing nations, such as corn, rice, wheat, yams, plantains and sweet potatoes, it said.

"The long-term decline of public agricultural research, the increasing privatization of GM technologies and the growing emphasis on the crops and priorities of the industrialized nations do not bode well for feeding the increasing populations of the developing world," the report said.

The document was a consensus of opinions from the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Third World Academy of Sciences and the science academies of China, Brazil, India and Mexico.

Investigations into the effects GM crops have on the environment should be coordinated, and public health regulators in every country need to identify and monitor any potential adverse effects on human health, the academies said.

To date, 30 million hectares (74 million acres) have been planted worldwide with genetically modified crops, mainly in the United States. Other countries embracing the technology include Argentina, Canada, Australia and China.

"China is likely to become one of the world leaders in this field," Heap said. "China has recognized the importance of the technology for feeding its people."

But the issue of genetically altered crops has become politically charged elsewhere, particularly in Europe, where anxiety about food safety runs high after a crisis in the mid-1990s over "mad cow" disease that led to an all-out ban on British beef exports.

European Union licensing of new genetically modified products and patents has stalled in recent years because of perceived health concerns.

"The European debate is interfering with trade," said Dr. Wallace Beversdorf, head of research and development in the seeds sector at Novartis AG, the Swiss-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. "The biggest limiting factor now is the debate over consumer acceptance and trade."

Beversdorf noted that Thailand recently turned down the opportunity to grow genetically modified rice because it feared it would not be able to export it.

"Europe is exceedingly important in terms of global development because it's a big market," he said.

Biotechnology companies welcomed the report and said industry help to developing nations was not new.

Novartis gives free genetically modified sweet potato seeds to Vietnam and trained scientists there how to introduce genes that make the crop resistant to weevils and how to test that the technique worked.

Monsanto, which said Tuesday it agrees on the need to share technology to combat world hunger, recently made public its draft of the rice genome.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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