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7-Business: African GE proponent asks for more industrial funding

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  African biotech champion seeks more industry money to fight PR
SOURCE: AFX-GEM, by Abid Aslam, sent by checkbiotech/Syngenta
DATE:   Jun 23, 2003

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African biotech champion seeks more industry money to fight PR battle

WASHINGTON (AFX-GEM) - One of Africa's most prominent boosters of using
agricultural biotechnology to reduce crop destruction from pests and
drought appealed for industry money Monday to fight what she described as
a losing public relations battle against environmental groups opposed to
genetically-modified crops.

"There is a big business in fear," said Kenya's Florence Wambugu, CEO of
the industry-funded A Harvest Biotech Foundation International.

She was referring to what she termed "scare tactics" by environmental and
other activists opposed to genetically-modified crops, chief among them

Wambugu spoke at an annual gathering here of some 20,000 biotech
executives, policy makers and scientists organized by the US lobby group
Biotechnology Industry Organization.

"We really appeal to the private sector to consider this: The battle
cannot only be fought in the North," she said.

Greenpeace has a 100-million-dollar per year budget to campaign against
biotech, she said.

By contrast, the biotech industry's public relations coffers contain 50
million dollars per year, with only five million dollars spent on
campaigning and communications in the developing world and only one
million dollars spent in Africa.

Greenpeace was unavailable for comment Monday.

Wambugu, whose impassioned campaigning on behalf of biotech has earned
her an international reputation, also appealed to biotech firms to ramp
up their development of genetically-modified staple crops for African

"I don't see any multinational companies going sleepless nights working
on cassava for Africa," she said.

Projects to improve African crops' resistance to pests and drought, or to
otherwise enhance their commercial properties by splicing genes from
other organisms into them, have been few and brokered by aid agencies,
she added.

For example, Monsanto is developing genetically modified sweet potato in
Kenya under a project underwritten by the US Agency for International

Likewise, Syngenta AG is working on biotech Maize under a deal brokered
by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, also known as
CIMMYT, a Mexico-based research institute backed by the UN and World Bank.


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