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6/29/03 - FOOD AND BIOTECHNOLOGY - 2003-06-30


One of the major breakthroughs in modern agriculture is the use of scientific techniques, including genetic engineering, to improve or create better varieties of crops such as corn, wheat, and soybeans.

Biotechnology makes it possible for farmers to increase crop yields and feed more people at lower cost. Scientists have also used biotechnology to pinpoint a gene that could help wheat to grow on millions of hectares around the world that are now unsuitable for planting.

And biotechnology can be used to engineer genetic changes in a crop that can make it unappealing to pests. Using bio-engineered crops may reduce the need for pesticides that could adversely affect water and soil, or even damage the health of people who work on farms.

Bio-engineered crops have been safely consumed in the U.S. since they were first introduced in 1996. Today, in the U.S., seventy-five percent of the soybeans and more than thirty percent of the corn are bio-engineered varieties. Bio-engineered corn is also grown in Argentina, South Africa, the Philippines, and some member countries of the European Union.

But, said President George W. Bush, “the great advantages of biotechnology have yet to reach developing nations in Africa and other lands where these innovations are most needed”:

“Acting on unfounded, unscientific fears, many European governments have blocked the import of all new biotech crops. Because of these artificial obstacles, many African nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried that their products will be shut out of important European markets. For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology.”

The overwhelming majority of scientific experts worldwide say that biotech foods are safe for people to eat. In fact, the evidence from years of research shows that biotech foods are as safe as conventional foods. If there were any evidence that biotech foods posed a threat to human health, such food would not be on the market.

U.S. farmers and consumers accept the benefits of biotechnology. As President Bush said, “We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger."

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