Tuskegee, Alabama, April 10, 2000—A group of agricultural scientists from the developing world today condemned the Chef’s Collaborative, a group of celebrity chefs calling for a moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops. "These rich celebrity chefs just don’t understand how important these technologies are for ensuring adequate and nutritious crop plants for farmers in developing countries," said Indian scientist C.S. Prakash, who gathered signatures for an open letter to the Chef’s Collaborative urging them to reconsider their opposition to biotechnology.
"It’s ironic that a bunch of rich American chefs, who pose as champions of the people, might actually be condemning hundreds of millions of people in the developing world to a life with less robust crop plants and less nutritious foods," said Gregory Conko, CEI’s Director of Food Safety Policy. "They’re simply out of touch with the needs of people in the rest of the world," added Prakash.
Dr. Prakash, a native of Bangalore, India, currently teaches plant genetics at Tuskegee University and serves as Director of Tuskegee’s Center for Plant Biotechnology Research. He was joined by six other scientists from developing countries in signing the letter. All seven are using cutting-edge biotechnology to improve crop varieties that are important to small farmers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. "Modern biotechnologies are absolutely critical to our work," said Prakash, "because there are things we simply cannot do with traditional methods of cross-breeding." Examples of such developments include:
- new rice varieties fortified with iron and with added beta carotene,
- sweet potatoes with enhanced dietary protein,
- cassava and papaya with built-in resistance to common plant viruses, and
- bananas that produce vaccines against cholera.
Dr. Prakash recently drafted a "Declaration of Scientists in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology," which has garnered the signatures of more than 2,000 scientists from around the world, including Nobel Prize winners James Watson and Norman Borlaug. The text of the Declaration and a list of signatories can be viewed at http://www/AgBioWorld.org, a web-site established by Dr. Prakash to share scientific information with policymakers, reporters, and members of the public.
AgBioWorld.org is supported and maintained by C.S. Prakash, Director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University. For more information about the Open Letter or the Scientists Declaration, contact Dr. Prakash or Gregory Conko, Director of Food Safety Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute: 1 (202) 331-1010.