More than 4,000 international scientists have signed an endorsement of genetically improved crops, a panel of scientists announced at a May 13 press conference. The event was called to announce that more than a dozen nations have brought a World Trade Organization claim against the European Union for banning genetically improved foods.
The ban “poses a genuine threat to the health and well-being of people throughout the developing world,” said Gregory Conko, director of food safety policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Conko spoke at a meeting of scientists and concerned citizens held after the press conference.
Biotechnology allows farmers to use fewer pesticides on their crops and grow foods with less capital and labor investment, said T.J. Buthelezi, a farmer from South Africa who grows biotech cotton. He said at the meeting that biotechnology has allowed him to cut his pesticide applications from 10 sprays per hectare to two sprays. That not only benefits the environment, he said, but also frees up his time to produce more crops.
Ariel Alvarez-Morales, of Mexico’s Center for Research and Advanced Studies, said at the meeting that the EU moratorium has reduced global investment in agricultural research because markets for new products remain uncertain. He asserted the EU was enforcing “excessive and unnecessary regulations based on fear” without scientific backing. “If we really want to use technology to reduce hunger, we don’t need more regulations,” he said.
According to Alvarez-Morales, the Center for Research and Advanced Studies is working with the private sector to develop virus-resistant potatoes and maize. Biotech advances will allow Mexican farmers to put into production five million hectares that are currently unsuitable for farming.
Biotechnology will also protect the Mexican environment, Alvarez-Morales said. With more productive farms, Mexican farmers will be able to meet their country’s food needs without having to transform forests to farmland in order to feed a growing population.
James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].