BUDAPEST, Hungary, August 4, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- , Reuters,
08/02/03: Experts from business, politics,
food, farming and development agreed the basis on Saturday
for an ambitious review of how science can help some
800 million chronically undernourished people in the
After months of regional meetings across the globe,
a World Bank-sponsored group of experts has recommended
a searching look at how to harness agricultural technologies,
including genetic modification, to meet global food
needs over the next 50 years.
"Over $35 billion is spent annually on agricultural
research. We need to know if this money is well spent
and where best to target our efforts," said the
recommendation paper after governments, agribusiness,
development agencies, pressure groups and non-governmental
organizations met in Budapest.
"Having Greenpeace, the World Bank and a company
like Syngenta sitting together and agreeing this is
important for the developing world is pretty amazing,"
said Michael Stopford, an executive at Syngenta, the
world's leading agribusiness.
The review, which will cost $15 million and could be
finished by the end of 2006, will canvas broad opinion,
from local farmers to the public and private sectors,
to look at how biotechnology can help fight hunger and
poverty as the global population expands and land and
water become scarcer.
Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser said the
review would help make future agricultural research
more relevant to farmers' needs in the developing world.
"We agreed an assessment...would be timely, sensible
and beneficial to advance new ways of thinking about
agricultural science and technology around the world,"
"The hope is we can tease out some of the important
barriers that large numbers of farmers face -- specific
issues like pests, animal diseases and blights that
research has overlooked -- take that analysis to the
scientific community and come up with a research agenda
that is close to the ground," he said.
Bob Watson, the World Bank chief scientist who chaired
the review and who helped prepare the groundwork for
the Kyoto climate protocol, said the assessment would
be unique in bringing together farmers' local knowledge
and the work of university, government and private sector
"We'll have a much better idea of what is the
role of science and technology moving into the future,
bringing together local and institutional knowledge
which can be used by governments, NGOs, international
and funding agencies," he said.
The review will explicitly not be bogged down by broader
disputes over the merits of GM technology, the organizers
"We've been very disciplined in not arguing the
pros and cons of GMOs and gene technology," said
"GM is not the number one issue and we've tried
to take out the strident debate on GM technology,"
said Syngenta's Stopford.
"The sort of things -- like drought resistance,
plant breeding, rice that doesn't need so much irrigation
-- that could be extremely interesting for the developing
world, are totally reachable without coming near the
subject of GM."
The recommendation now goes to World Bank President
James Wolfensohn, who is likely to pass it on to United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to drum up the