Acceptance of biotechnology growing, U.S. official says
www.checkbiotech.org ; www.raupp.info ; www.czu.cz
Agricultural biotechnology has become more accepted by farm producers and
government officials in developing countries in recent years, a promising
step toward meeting the challenges of reducing world hunger and opening
nations to trade, says a top official of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA), October 2006 by Kathryn McConnell.
As farmers around the world learn that genetically engineered crops can
lead to increased yields and other benefits, such as improved resistance to
drought and pests, farmers are convincing their governments to alter their
regulatory policies to allow the import of biotech-improved seeds, said
Ellen Terpstra, the deputy under secretary for foreign agricultural
Speaking to the Washington File in advance of World Food Day, Terpstra said
that, through in-country technical assistance and exchange programs, USDA is
helping governments learn how to adopt "transparent, efficient and
science-based" food safety regulations that are replacing "arbitrary bans"
on the import of biotechnology products.
The programs also increase countries' abilities to maintain food safety
within their boundaries, she said.
In other U.S. food-security efforts, USDA has been providing approximately
$150 million a year through the Food for Progress program for agricultural
development projects, Terpstra said.
Through Food for Progress, donated commodities are sold in recipient
countries with proceeds going to approved development projects, including
economic development and infrastructure improvement projects.
One example is a project implemented by the Aga Khan Development Network of
agencies. The network has used proceeds from selling or bartering
USDA-donated commodities in Tajikistan to provide milk for school children,
to train community health and livestock workers and to provide preventive
health services for mothers and young children.
In Afghanistan, these funds are helping to provide milk for children --
often delivered on foot to isolated communities -- and fund farmer in-field
Another USDA food aid effort, which is expanding, is the McGovern-Dole Food
for Education program, Terpstra said.
Under the $100 million-a-year program, nutritious food is given to families
of young students in "food deficit countries" to encourage parents to
support their children's -- particularly girls' -- attendance at school
instead of their doing household or outside work.
Program funds also are used to rebuild schools, improve schools' access to
sanitation services and clean drinking water, and help communities grow
fruits and vegetables to improve their children?s diets.
The program is named after former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations food
agencies, George McGovern, and former Senate leader Bob Dole. (See related
Since 2000 the McGovern-Dole program has helped feed more than 10 million
children in more than 40 countries and increased school attendance and
teachers' training, according to USDA.
USDA also is helping developing countries learn how to recognize and
appropriately respond to discoveries of plant and animal diseases in order
to prevent their spread and avert further health risks, Terpstra said.
Another USDA effort to help countries become more food-secure is sponsorship
of the Cochran Fellowship Program, she said.
The Cochran program brings selected farm experts and policy makers to the
United States for up to six weeks for individual training with U.S.
counterparts. Nearly 10,000 people have received training through the
fellowship program, Terpstra said.
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