For Immediate Release: November 23, 1999
Contact: Amy Ridenour 202/543-4110 x110 or [email protected]



Activists Attack Bio-Engineered Food Despite Benefits to the Poor and the Sick

Environmental Groups Join in Attack on Technology that Aids the Environment Instead of Giving Thanks for its Effects

At a time when Americans should be giving thanks for the benefits new biotechnologies offer the developing world, the environment and health, a coalition of environmental groups, Members of Congress and anti-technology luddites are protesting these benefits and threatening their future.

The protestors largely reside in rich European nations and the U.S., where, unlike in the developing world, the benefits of biotechnology are more a matter of convenience and health than one of life and death. The activists are seeking restrictions and increased government regulations upon the use of biotechnology, despite its many benefits.

Activists are protesting public biotechnology meetings of the Food and Drug Administration, taking place in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Oakland, California this November and December and are expected to be present in force at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle November 30-December 3. Led by Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI), 50 Members of Congress sent a letter to the FDA calling for more restrictions on biotechnology.

Among the acknowledged benefits of biotechnology:

Elimination of starvation: Biotechnology can increase agricultural productivity in the developing world. For instance, the 1997 World Bank and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research estimates that biotechnology will increase food production in the developing world by 25%.

Health: Bioengineering can reduce the amount of saturated fats in foods, and increase nutrients. According to U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) in Senate testimony, 500,000 children in developing nations go blind as a result of Vitamin A deficiency. Biotechnology can fortify rice, wheat, and corn with extra Vitamin A to stop this blindness in children. All in all, 250 million children currently suffer from Vitamin A deficiency worldwide, which can cause learning disabilities and, for girls, childbearing problems once they become adults.

Biotechnology can also reduce allergens in foods. Presently, food allergies are the cause of 2,500 emergency room visits and 135 deaths annually in the U.S. 1-3% of older children and adults suffer from food allergies, as do 5-8% of infants and toddlers.

Environment: Biotechnology has already led to an 80% reduction in insecticide use in U.S. cotton crops and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show a 30-40% reduction in herbicide use. Biotechnology can reduce the amount of water needed to grow foods, and soil erosion as a result of agriculture.

Family economy: Bioengineered baked goods, fruits and vegetables can have a longer shelf life, reducing waste and spoilage.

"Currently, all U.S. food improved by biotechnology must pass stringent FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture Safety Tests," said Amy Ridenour, president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "They must be labeled if a portion of a known allergen has been introduced into a product, and they must contain a label if biotechnology has created a 'material difference' in the food. In short, allergy, health and safety issues are already being addressed by the U.S. government, but this is not enough for those activists who look upon all technological progress with suspicion, even when progress is helping the poor and the sick."

The National Center For Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, D.C. Contact Amy Ridenour at 202-543-4110 x110 or [email protected].

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