Symposium discusses risks, benefits of plant biotechnology

How is plant biotechnology regulated and should biotech foods be labeled? Could transferred genes escape into wild plants? Why have American farmers adopted biotech crops so readily and how have Mexican farmers reacted to the technology? What does the public really know - and want to know - about biotechnology? These questions and many more will be discussed Monday, April 2, at a daylong symposium in San Diego during the 221st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The meeting runs April 1-5.

Biotech crops are more common in the United States than elsewhere in the world. In 1999, at least 100 million acres were planted with such crops, 71 percent of which were in the United States, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. As of July 1999, about 40 biotech foods had been approved for sale, according to USDA. The first was Calgene's Flavr Savr tomato, approved in 1994. Yet, according to the International Food Information Council, just 36 percent of Americans are aware that the food in their supermarkets may be produced using biotechnology.

Plant biotechnology is still a new science; the USDA first adopted regulations in 1987. Accordingly, little is known about its long-term effects on human health and the environment. When biotech corn - approved for animal but not human consumption - was found in taco shells last year, it created a furor that illuminated the ongoing debate over the potential benefits and risks of biotechnology.

Morning Session: "Plant Biotechnology: Potential of Transgenic Technologies"
8:55 a.m. to noon

Alejandra Bravo, Ph.D., Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico (AGFD 26)

Maarten Chrispeels, Ph.D., University of California at San Diego (AGFD 27)

Stephen Abel, Ph.D., University of California at Davis (AGFD 28)

Stephen Kaffka, Ph.D., University of California at Davis


Contact: Tamara Schneider
American Chemical Society

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