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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 
security worldwide.

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 
crop yields.

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