7-Misc: US wants GMOs and GE food under the WTO
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19 March 1999
USDA TO FORM PANEL ON AGRICULTURE AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
(Panel to study new technology in food production) (440)
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
USIA Staff Writer
Washington -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman says he is forming
an Advisory Committee on Biotechnology to study the role advanced genetic
research can play in expanding food production and enhancing food
Glickman said that applying advanced genetic engineering to food
development in the 21st century has the potential to feed many more
people than current conventional methods have.
"Biotechnology is a powerful tool in ensuring global food security,"
Glickman said at a March 19 panel discussion at the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. It can allow the farm industry "to generate higher yields
while putting less of a strain on our natural resources," he said.
Biotechnology products have to work as easily for the smallest farmer as
it does for the largest agricultural corporation, though, he said. The
25-member advisory committee will aim to identify the role of
biotechnology in agriculture and examine how to create it, apply it and
market it, he said.
Glickman said the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a proper forum for
considering questions about biotechnology research and genetically
modified organisms. The WTO holds its third ministerial meeting in late
November in Seattle, Washington.
Terry Medley, vice president of biotechnology, regulatory and external
affairs for DuPont Agricultural Enterprise, said during the panel
discussion that the use of biotechnology in food production must be
thought of as a tool -- not a magic bullet that will make problems
disappear. And, he said the challenge is how best to use that tool
"As a tool, this can be applied to help in sustainability in terms of
feeding the world because the advancements are, in fact, in the seed and
it doesn't require heavy investment or changes in current agricultural
practices," he said.
Margaret Mellon, director of the Agriculture and Biotechnology Program of
the Union of Concerned Scientists, cautioned that biotechnology is a
powerful new technology not yet fully understood by policy makers. She
said a real danger exists that biotechnology could push consolidation of
the food supply into the control of a handful of international
agricultural corporations -- effectively creating farming without farmers.
Ralph Hardy, president of the National Agricultural Biotechnology
Council, said he too was concerned about the increasing consolidation of
the agribusiness industry and seed-producing corporations. But he added
that biotechnology in agriculture will add value by helping produce
stronger, healthier and more productive seeds that will result in higher
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