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Biotechnology Issues and the Pew Charitable Trusts

February 2002

D. L. Uchtmann                                                                                                             


Abstract:

This brief article provides an overview of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. A link to its website provides access to a broad range of information about contemporary biotechnology issues. The Pew Initiative represents an excellent source of reasonably balanced information about biotechnology.


The application of biotechnology to agriculture has triggered much public debate about the benefits, environmental costs, potential impacts on human health, and other related issues. In many ways, this public debate has become rather polarized, with some advocates seeing only the problems and risks potentially associated with this new technology and other advocates seeing only its potential benefits and promise. Unfortunately, the polarized character of the debate makes it more difficult to find reliable, reasonably balanced sources regarding agricultural biotechnology.

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, is one source that seeks to develop and disseminate balanced, focused, objective information about issues in food and agricultural biotechnology. In furtherance of the goals of balance and objectivity, the Pew Initiative is creating a small, bipartisan Executive Advisory Committee co-chaired by Dan Glickman, former Secretary of Agriculture, and Vin Weber, a former member of Congress from Minnesota.

Since March of 2001 the Pew Initiative has sponsored research, workshops and conferences, and polls that have identified and contributed to a better understanding of diverse perspectives on biotechnology issues. Among the research reports, issue briefs, fact sheets, and other information published by the Pew Initiative are

  • HARVEST ON THE HORIZON: FUTURE USES OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY
  • GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS IN THE UNITED STATES
  • GUIDE TO U.S. REGULATION OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY PRODUCTS
  • STATE LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY IN 2001 RELATED TO AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY
  • THE STARLINK CASE: ISSUES FOR THE FUTURE
  • VIEWS ON GENETIC MODIFICATION OF FOOD INFLUENCED BY RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, NOT JUST SCIENCE, and
  • KNOWING WHERE IT'S GOING: BRINGING FOOD TO MARKET IN THE AGE OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS.

These and other publications are available from the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology website at http://pewagbiotech.org/.

The Pew Initiative has also created a "Stakeholders' Forum" in which a small group of representatives from industry, public institutions, academia, consumers and environmental groups and others are attempting to reach consensus about regulatory and marketing issues important to the future of biotechnology. To date, most of the more than fifty products approved for commercial use by federal regulatory agencies have dealt with introducing herbicide-resistant or pesticide-producing genes into corn, cotton, and soybeans. However, future biotechnology products, such as pharmaceutical plants and genetically engineered livestock, are likely to pose even greater challenges for the regulatory system. The consensus-building effort of the "Stakeholders' Forum" should help the biotechnology regulatory system evolve to better serve the American public as these future challenges unfold. Information about the consensus-building project is also available from the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology website at http://pewagbiotech.org/.

  

Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics    College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
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