FOREIGN AID BILL BOOSTS BIOTECH FUNDING
While its own biotech introduction goes belly up, the US is seriously increasing its funding for biotechnology -- "not for food on U.S. grocery-store shelves or crops in U.S. fields" but for developing nations. Now why might that be?
As a recent Greenpeace spokesman in India commented, this is pretty
much the last throw of the dice -- if they can't lever this technology
into the South, the whole project is dead. Thus, pro-GM scientists tour
the Third World, conferences are convened, government to government
agreements are sought, the gene giants say they've never heard of Terminator and they are ready to give away their patents, and biotech-related aid flourishes.
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Foreign-Aid Bill Boosts Spending For Biotechnology to Battle Hunger
- Associated Press, 27 November 2000
WEEKLY FARM: Congress Funds Biotech Research for Humanitarian Aid
By Libby Quaid Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - From a taco shell controversy to caterpillar experiments,
genetically altered crops are under fire. The government, meanwhile, is
increasing its spending on biotechnology - not
for food on American grocery store shelves or crops in American fields, but for battling hunger in developing nations.
President Clinton this month signed a foreign-aid spending bill that contains $30 million for the effort -- more than triple the level for the U.S. Agency for International Development since the agency first incorporated biotechnology into its hunger-fighting campaign.
"This money will help liberate millions the world over from the tyranny
of hunger and malnutrition," said Republican Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri,
who sought the money. Sen. Bond is a major supporter of biotechnology;
his state is home to several industry and research leaders, including
Monsanto Co., St. Louis, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
Critics worry that unforeseen dangers are posed to people and the environment when genes are spliced from one organism to another.
"Before we start promoting biotechnology overseas, let's make sure that it's safe, and get the regulations in place to make sure that it's tested here," said Andrew Kimbrell, director of the nonprofit, Washington-based Center for Food Safety.
Biotechnology's goal, through introduction of a gene from one species to another, is the creation of crops that are more tolerant of drought and resistant to pests and disease. Crops can also be fortified with vitamins or vaccines.
"Golden rice," for example, was engineered to elevate levels of vitamin A. Rice is a food staple for half the world, but it loses its natural vitamin A in the milling process. In August, Monsanto announced it would grant free licenses to use its patented technology for its golden-rice varieties.
The aid agency has laid groundwork for adapting "golden rice" into seed varieties that can be grown by poor farmers in developing countries, as well as another Monsanto-donated technology that will be used to add beta carotene to mustard oil, which is commonly used for cooking in Northern India and Bangladesh, agency official Robert Bertram said.
He estimated the agency has spent $7 million to $9 million on researching
genetically engineered crops during the past several years. Mr. Bertram
said his agency will work to ensure safety testing and follow each country's
regulations governing modified crops.