THIRD WORLD NETWORK INFORMATION SERVICE ON BIOSAFETY
12 July 2002
Dear friends and colleagues,
We have the pleasure of sharing with you the statement issued by the Pugwash Workshop on the “Impact of Agricultural Biotechnology on Environmental and Food Security” held in Mexico in May.
The workshop, which brought together experts from around the world, is part of the effort of the 45-year old Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs to discuss the social and policy ramifications of important scientific discoveries in our present world and to give direction on the issues discussed.
The Mexico workshop recognizes the fact that research into modern biotechnologies has sparked intense debates on the impact of applying transgenic technologies to agricultural production and raised questions as to the long-term effect of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
From the discussions, the participants concluded that due to the lack of knowledge on the benefits and risks of GMOs, there is a need for independent research, to analyse, monitor and evaluate the environmental, economical, health and socio-cultural aspects of biotechnology.
Because many consequences of GMOs are unknown, the participants cautioned that certain activities should not be undertaken until more is known of their biological and social consequences.
They cautioned against over-reliance on one technology and urged that traditional and newly developed technologies need to be evaluated and promoted to ensure socially and ecologically sustainable agriculture.
The statement said all sectors of societies should have access to complete information on agricultural and biotechnology developments especially of GMOs.
And lastly, the participants called for greater transparency, accountability and credibility on the part of scientists, government and the private sector to ensure informed participation by society in the decision process regarding GMOs.
With best wishes,
Lim Li Lin and Chee Yoke Heong
Third World Network
121_S Jalan Utama
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
Nobel Peace Prize 1995
The Impact of Agricultural Biotechnology on Environmental and Food Security
Mexico, D.F., 28-31 May 2002
Statement Issued by the Pugwash Workshop*
Founded in 1957 as a result of the concerns shared by Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and other scientists regarding the posed by the advent of thermonuclear weapons, the Pugwash Conferences convene several scientific workshops and conferences each year on important issues relating to science and society. Recipient of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize with its co-founder and then President, Sir Joseph Rotblat, the Pugwash Conferences have been, for more than 45 years, an important forum for discussions of the social and policy ramifications of important scientific discoveries.
Today, the incorporation of modern biotechnology into agricultural production processes has generated new ethical, economic, social and environmental dilemmas confronting societies all over the world. Research into these biotechnologies has sparked an intense debate on the benefits and risks of implementing transgenic technologies into the world’s agricultural production, raising questions about the extent of our current knowledge as to the long-term effects of genetically modified organisms. In this context, the biological and genetic diversity of Mexico, both in wild and domesticated varieties (especially maize), makes the country an ideal venue for international workshops on these issues.
Organized by the Pugwash Conferences with financial and logistic support of the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), the Mexican Under Secretary for the United Nations, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Ecology, and the Physics and Ecology institutes of the National University of Mexico, the workshop brought together 31 specialists from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Italy, Mexico, Norway, the United States and Venezuela.
As a result of the discussion, participants identified six principles which they felt should guide research and policymaking regarding agricultural biotechnology:
1. Current knowledge is insufficient for assessing the benefits and risks of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), especially in light of the long-term consequences these technologies may pose for the biosphere and future generations.
2. To that end, independent research and institutional capacity building within society is needed to identify and implement short- and long term research and to analyze, monitor and evaluate the environmental, economical, health and socio-cultural aspects of biotechnology developments.
3. Because many of the short-term and long-term consequences of GMOs remain unknown, certain activities should not be undertaken until more is known of their biological and social consequences. For example, current efforts to develop GM maize that produces non-edible industrial chemicals or pharmaceuticals are of grave concern because maize is an open pollinated, widely cultivated staple crop.
4. Mechanisms are needed to ensure access, by all sectors of society, to complete and appropriate information on agricultural and biotechnology developments and applications to all sectors of society. Of particular importance for evaluating and monitoring these is the deposit of, and access to, viable biological materials and detailed sequence information of the new genetic constructs of all GMOs.
5. Multiple strategies employing traditional and newly developed technologies, capacities and institutions, rather than over-reliance on one particular technology, need to be evaluated and promoted to ensure socially and ecologically sustainable agriculture. Strategies such as niche marketing, inter-cropping, precision and integrated farming, and techniques to conserve germplasm should be promoted and supported.
6. Informed participation by the agricultural, consumer and all sectors of society in the decision-making process regarding GMOs requires greater transparency, accountability and credibility on the part of scientists, government and the private sector.
Finally, participants at the workshop felt that the Pugwash Conferences should organize future meetings on the above issues. The complexity of the subject, in terms of both its technical aspects and social consequences, will be with us for years to come, generating intense discussion in both the scientific community and society at large.
· The above statement reflects the views of the workshop participants, and not necessarily those of their institutions or organizations or the Council of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.
Elena Alvarez-Buylla Roces, Laboratorio de Genética Molecular, Desarrollo y Evolución de PlantasInstituto de Ecología, Mexico
Rodrigo Artunduaga Salas, Coordinador Bioseguridad y Recursos Genéticos Agrícolas, Instituto Colombiano de Agricultura, Colombia
Camilo Ayra Pardo, Jefe del Laboratorio de Biotecnología Ambiental del CIGB, Cuba
Andrés Barreda, Profesor Investigador de la Facultad de Economía, UNAM, Mexico
Raúl Benet, Greenpeace Mexico (observer)
Jeffrey Boutwell, Executive Director, Pugwash Conferences, Cambridge, MA, USA
Vernon Cardwell, Professor, Agronomy Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, USA
César Carrillo Trueba, Revista Ciencias, Facultad de Ciencias, UNAM, Mexico
Ana María Cetto, Instituto de Física, UNAM, Mexico
Ignacio Chapela, Ecosystem Sciences Division, Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy and Mangement, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Alejandra Alicia Covarrubias Robles, Instituto de Biotecnología, UNAM, Mexico
Ana de Ita, Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano, Mexico
Norman Ellstrand, Department of Botany & Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside, USA
María de los Angeles Erazo, Periódico “Descubrir Latinoamericano”Revista “Conversus”, Mexico
Exequiel Ezcurra, Presidente del Instituto Nacional de Ecología, SEMARNAT, Mexico
José Carlos Fernández, Instituto Nacional de Ecología, SEMARNAT, Mexico
Tatiana Fiordelisio, Instituto de Fisiología Celular, UNAM, Mexico
Amanda Gálvez, Depto. Alimentos y Biotecnología, Fac. Química, UNAM, Mexico
Luis García Barrios, Coordinador de la División de Sistemas de Producción Alternativos, EL Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), Mexico
Raúl García Barrios, Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias, UNAM, Mexico
Jessica Hellmann, Centre for Biodiversity Research, University of British Columbia, Canada
Elleli Huerta Ocampo, Dirección Técnica de Análisis y PrioridadesComisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO), Mexico
Lev Jardón, Student/Young Pugwash, Mexico
Takeo Angel Kato Yamakake, Colegio de Postgraduados, Mexico
Jorge Larson, Coordinador del Programa “Recursos Biológicos Colectivos”, CONABIO, Mexico
Patricia León Mejía, Instituto de Biotecnologia, UNAM, Mexico
León P. Martínez Castilla, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, Mexico
Jorge Nieto Sotelo, Instituto de Biotecnología, UNAM, Mexico
León Rogelio Olivé Morett, Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas, UNAM, Mexico
Rubens Onofre Nodari, Universidade Federal De Santa Catarina Centro de Ciencias Agrarias, Departamento de Fitotecnia, Brazil
Sol Ortiz García, Asesora del Presidente del Instituto Nacional de Ecología, Mexico
Juan Pablo Pardo, Student/Young Pugwash, Mexico
Hugo Perales Rivera, Jefe del Departamento de Agroecología, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico
Karla Peregrina, Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, AC, Mexico
Daniel Ignacio Piñero Dalmau, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, México
Merardo Pujol, Head, Plant Department, Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Cuba
José Luis Ramírez, Director Centro de Biotecnología, Instituto de Estudios Avanzados Carretera Nacional Hoyo de La Puerta a lado de USB, Venezuela
Silvia Ribeiro, Researcher / ETC Group, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, Mexico
Decio Ripandelli, Biosafety Unit, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Italy
María Elena Rodríguez Fuentes, Ministerio Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente, Industria y San José, Cuba
Alberto Salazar, Instituto de Física, UNAM, Mexico
José Sarukhán Kermez, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, Tercer circuito exterior, Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico
Francisco Xavier Soberón Mainero, Director Instituto de Biotecnología, UNAM, Mexico
Ricardo Torres Carrasco, Instituto de Investigación de Biodiversidad Alexander von Humboldt, Colombia
Terje Traavik, University of Tromsö Scientific Director, GenÖk- Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology, Norway
Mark Wheelis, Section of Microbiology, University of California, Davis, USA