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Experts say GM crops alone will not end hunger

(Friday, Sept. 17, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Swiss news agency, 09/09/04: Swiss experts have warned that genetically-modified (GM) crops are not the only way to combat global hunger.

A government advisory committee said not enough research had been carried out into the impact of gene technology.

The Ethics Committee on Non-Human Technology called for closer coordination of state-funded research programmes in an effort to help improve the provision of food for people in developing countries.

The study comes three months after the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization published its own report into the environmental effects of GM crops.

The United States has said in the past that GM crops could help to address the needs of "hundreds of millions" of people who do not have enough food.

But critics argue that proposals to sell such crops to the developing world fail to address the complex issue of how to deal with hunger and malnutrition.


"It is a simplification to assume that the food situation will fundamentally improve by relying on gene technology," said the ethics committee's report published on Thursday.

The authors argue that state-funded research projects should not give preference to such technology.

The committee also called on the scientific community to consider other options, adding that alternative methods were often more promising and produced better results.

Florianne Koechlin, a renowned biologist and critic of gene technology, focused on the concerns expressed by a majority of committee members that the promotion of GM crops could lead to the extinction of certain plants and species.

Christoph Stückelberger of the Swiss charity, Bread for All, said it was crucial to take into account the risk that modern technology can ignore the religious and social aspects of agricultural practices in the developing world.

Right to decide

The committee said that citizens in both the developed and developing world had the same right to a sufficient and healthy diet and that they were entitled to decide for themselves how the food they eat should be produced.

The experts added that it was vital to ensure that the use of gene technology in developing countries did not lead to tensions within a society or between countries.

They also called for increased efforts on the part of the industrialised world to provide the know-how for other countries to take informed decisions on such technology.

The committee said the purpose of the report was to contribute to the debate about gene technology and to advise Swiss politicians and the government’s development agency on the issue.

Source: http://nzz.ch/2004/09/09/english/page-synd5203054.html

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