Group of 1200 Scientists Endorses Biotech Crops; Cites Need for Easy Public Access to Information on Benefits and Safety

June 15, 2000

SAN DIEGO, June 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The Society for In Vitro Biology, an organization of roughly 1200 scientists, endorsed the commercialization of genetically engineered crops at its annual meeting in San Diego this week. In a resolution passed by its membership, the organization said, "Scientific facts are often lost amidst the ensuing rhetoric and emotional debates." As a result, the organization will lend its support publicly to the discussion of genetically engineered crops to provide legislators, regulators and consumers more information on the technology’s benefits and safety.

Delia Bethell, Ph.D., BioSeparations, Inc., president of the Society for In Vitro Biology, said, "There is a basic lack of understanding of biotechnology and the benefits it offers—and can offer—for improving our overall quality of life—in developing countries as well as developed countries. The reasons stem from the fact that our school systems are not producing adults with an adequate knowledge of basic science."

Mary Ann Lila Smith, Ph.D., University of Illinois, incoming president of the Society said, "I am pleased that our members had the vision to speak out in support of biotech crops. This research and its applications portend great things for our future. Scientists in our society are working not only on the development of genetically modified foods, but cures for cancer, cures for diabetes, cures for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and decontaminating the planet using plants to extract toxic organic compounds and other pollutants from the environment. The list goes on and on. It would be tragic if regulators and consumers make all the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons."

In a unanimous vote of members in attendance at the conference, the Society identified a "top six" list of facts of which the public should be aware:

1. The vast majority of crops used worldwide are the product of genetic modification and selection, both intentional and unintentional, which has taken place over the centuries.

2. Due to extensive research, more targeted, efficient and desirable genetic modifications are possible now, compared to techniques used during the past century.

3. Genetically modified crops provide opportunities to better safeguard the environment and ensure the safety of our food supply. The first generation of genetically engineered crops has provided several environmental benefits, such as decreasing the use of insecticides, reducing ground water contamination, promoting the shift toward the use of more environmentally friendly herbicides, decreasing naturally occurring toxins in the corn, and increasing the productivity and profitability of farmland.

4. Genetically engineered crops have the potential to result in products that are more nutritious, better tasting, able to produce pharmaceutical therapies for disease like vaccines, biofuels and biodegradable plastics. Genetically modified crops also offer an opportunity to feed an ever- increasing population using the farmland already in existence, without extending agricultural production into rain forests and other environmentally sensitive areas.

5. The evaluation and regulation of genetically engineered crops must be science-based. Foods from genetically modified crops, which are determined to be substantially equivalent to those made from conventional crops, do not require labeling. The Society supports current FDA food labeling practices, which require labeling only if a food has a known human health issue, and allows for voluntary labeling of ingredients as long as the label is truthful and not misleading.

6. Due to the stringent regulatory process, all crop and animal products that result from biotechnology are demonstrated to be as safe as non- engineered versions of that plant or animal product, prior to their use by the public.

C.S. Prakash, Ph.D., of Tuskegee University, an agriculture biotechnology panelist at the meeting said, "The testing and regulatory regimen to ensure the safety of these products far exceeds that of any other product that is sent to the marketplace for human consumption. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health and Human Services all weigh in on the safety of agriculture biotechnology products. Not to mention the fact that independent assessments are made of these products by prominent scientific organizations.

"Due to the overwhelming amount of misinformation that has been generated by certain groups around the world, these regulatory agencies will now band together to wage an effective, science-based public education campaign to quiet the hysteria that has been caused as a result. I am proud that the Society is joining in this effort," he said.

The Society for In Vitro Biology is meeting in San Diego in a joint World Congress for In Vitro Biology with the International Congress of Invertebrate Cell and Tissue Culture to highlight "Fountain of Youth" science—all forms of biotechnology research. The Society is a non-profit organization founded in 1946. Members of the Society conduct cutting edge research in the areas of plant, invertebrate (insect and marine organisms), mammalian (human and animal) cells and tissues. Although the range of disciplines are quite different—from growing plants to finding the latest drug treatments for cancer—the scientists have a common interest in using living cells in research to improve the health of human, animal and plant life on the planet.

For a copy of the full text of the resolution passed by members of the Society for In Vitro Biology, please visit

SOURCE Society for In Vitro Biology

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