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Lugar says Science is Key to Food Crisis: Implores Nations not to Resist Genetically Modified Crops
Sylvia A. Smith
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, July 30, 2008

WASHINGTON - Countries that ban foods made from genetically modified crops should rethink their opposition, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said Tuesday. "In some parts of the world, farmers are trying to feed their families with technology that would not seem out of place in biblical times," he said.

The consequence for many, Lugar said, is starvation or close to it "Twenty-three countries are taking advantage of the most advanced technology - that is, genetically modified crops. Nearly all of them are food exporters," he said. "Not surprisingly, the nearly 40 countries that are threatened by the recent spikes in food prices and by increases in the number of undernourished are not on this list."

Crops, including corn and soybeans, have been genetically engineered to resist drought and pests and have been sold for about 15 years. But some countries ban their imports.

In some European countries, products made from genetically modified crops are called "Frankensteinfoods" and their importation banned. Some African countries also refuse to import biologically altered crops or seeds, in part because of concerns that they would not be able to export their products to Europe.

The United Nations recently predicted a worldwide increase in hunger because food prices have gone up more than 50 percent in the past two years. Several factors are cited in higher food prices, including the rise in the price of oil plus the increased production of ethanol from corn.

Lugar said the world's response "must be as multifaceted as the cause" and must include the elimination of barriers to genetically modified crops.

The U.S. is the leading producer of crops that have been biologically altered to grow bigger and under harsher circumstances.

"By 2015," Lugar said in a forum on world hunger, "it is predicted that the world will hold more than 7 billion people, with increasing stress on land, water, and energy supplies. ... We must not allow an aversion to modern agricultural technology to doom a part of the world's population to chronic hunger and poverty."

Biological changes in seeds have "provided significant farm yield increases and pesticide use decrease," Lugar said. "Yet since 2000, many countries with chronic food insecurity have rejected or limited the import of genetically modified foodstuffs, including food aid."

Because some African countries block genetically modified crops out of concern that Europe would reject African food imports, "the governments and people of Europe must understand that their opposition to safe (genetically modified) technology contributes to hunger in Africa," Lugar said.

Lugar also cautioned against cutting back on the production of biofuels, which are made from crops, primarily corn.

"Abandoning biofuels ultimately would reduce the planet's ability to feed itself," he said. "Major progress can be made in accelerating advanced biofuels derived from agriculture, forest, and municipal waste, and from special energy crops like switchgrass."

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