"It is the  very same politics, economics and logic that are behind the global biotechnology industry that have created so much marginalization, poverty and environmental degradation all over the planet." Marit Stinus-Remonde writing in the Manila Times 09/05/2001

They just can't resist the bio-hype, can they: "seemingly boundless opportunities" - at least there's a "seemingly"!  

Something might also be said about the ethics of an organisation (FAO) which has managed over so many years to do so little for the poor and  hungry.

NB urls at end of this article

They just can't resist that bio-hype, can they: "seemingly boundless opportunities" - at least there's a "seemingly"! Something might also be said about the ethics of an organisation (FAO) which has managed to do so little for the poor and hungry over so many years.

NB urls at end of this article

Italy, May 7, 2001 (ENS)
enetically modified organisms  such as foods and vaccines are not inherently good or bad,  but can be used for good or ill, says Jacques Diouf,  director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture  Organization (FAO). "The benefits deriving from genetically  modified organisms should be shared more fairly with  developing countries and with resource poor farmers. Above  all, ways must be found to guarantee that increased  production benefits accrue to the poor and food insecure,"  he said. Speaking Thursday on the release of the first two  papers in a series on ethics in food and agriculture, Diouf  said, "Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), like all the  new technologies, are instruments that can be used for good  and for bad in the same way that they can be either managed  to the benefit of the most needy or skewed to the advantage  of specific groups."

 The FAO has set up an internal committee on ethics in food  and agriculture to provide guidance and determine the scope  of ethical issues the organization must address. "FAO is  now addressing ethics in a more systematic way, and is  giving higher visibility to the ethical dimensions of its  work in an interdisciplinary manner across the various  technical fields," FAO expert Margret Vidar points out.  

 "Perhaps the most egregious problem is the widespread bias  against the hungry and the poor," states the first paper,  "Ethical Issues in Food and Agriculture," which introduces  the ethical questions and sets forth a scope of vision. The  goals of improved well being, protection of the environment  and improved public health should be paramount in making  decisions about the use of genetically modified organisms  the authors say. As part of its ethical formulation  process, the FAO established the Panel of Eminent Experts  on Ethics in Food and Agriculture to advise the  Organization and to raise public awareness of ethical  considerations associated with issues of food security for  present and future generations and sustainable management  of the earth's limited resources. The panel includes  scientists from Ethiopia, China, Cuba, France, Malaysia,  Morocco, Norway and the United States, appointed for a  four-year period. They met, for the first time, last  September and will meet again in 2002. In its report, the  Panel of Eminent Experts cautiously supports the  exploration and use of GMOs by developing countries. "FAO  should support developing countries in increasing research  and development related to socially useful and environment  friendly biotechnologies, including - as appropriate - the  possible development of certain GMOs," it says. Conducting  a comparative study of national regulations concerning  biotechnology, including GMOs, and exploring the  possibility and desirability of harmonizing such  regulations would be useful, the experts recommend. The  panel notes with "much concern" that public research  funding is being continually reduced, both at the national  and the international level at a time "when new and  powerful technologies are drastically increasing the  efficiency of research, and public funding for  non-commercial research is essential in order to develop,  transfer and utilize appropriate biotechnologies."

 The purpose of the second publication, entitled,  "Genetically Modified Organisms, Consumers, Food Safety and  the Environment," is to share the current knowledge of  genetically engineered products in relation to consumers,  including the safety of their food and protection of their  health, and environmental conservation. The paper seeks to  unravel and explore the claims and counterclaims being made  in the GMO debate from an ethical perspective, considering  issues related to the ownership of the necessary tools to  produce GMOs, the potential consequences of their use and  the undesirable effects that their application could have,  both now and in the future. The publication advocates  interaction and involvement of all stakeholders in the  decision making process regarding GMOs. Modern  biotechnology, if appropriately developed, could offer new  and broad potential for contributing to food security, but  the authors say, "It is not possible to make sweeping  generalizations about GMOs, each application must be fully  analyzed on a case-by-case study."

 Diouf emphasized the importance of a cautious attitude  towards bioengineered organisms, without ignoring possible  benefits. "As scientific progress presents us with ever  more powerful tools and seemingly boundless opportunities,  we must exercise caution and ensure thorough ethical  consideration of how these should be used," he said. The  first report of the Panel of Eminent Experts is online at: Biographies of the Panel of Eminent Experts on Ethics in  Food and Agriculture The first two FAO ethics papers are online at: For full text and graphics visit: