National Agricultural Biotechnology Conference: High Anxiety and Biotechnology: Who’s Buying, Who’s Not, and Why?

National Agricultural Biotechnology Conference 2001: High Anxiety and Biotechnology: Who’s Buying, Who’s Not, and Why?

The National Agricultural Biotechnology Council has released proceedings of its 2001 conference, Genetically Modified Food and the Consumer. Click  here to view the report

The conference, which was May 22-24, 2001 in Chicago, is an annual activity of the NABC, a not-for-profit consortium of more than 30 leading agricultural research and teaching universities in the United States and Canada.

The conference explored societal and consumer concerns about agricultural biotechnology. During recent years, attention had been focused mainly on the science of agro-biotechnology and its promise. Societal and consumer concerns have not studied extensively. Society, however, continues to be concerned about the safety, ethics, environmental and other impacts of biotechnology. The goal of this conference was generate a public discussion on these impacts of agricultural biotechnology.

Sixteen invited speakers and four panels/workshops examined various dimensions of agricultural biotechnology from the perspective or “lenses” of different segments of the society, including consumers, farmers, scientists, and the public universities. Perspectives of all segments of food production, processing, and manufacturing industry were also presented. A historical perspective in terms of agricultural evolution was provided by C. S. Prakash, Tuskegee University. European perspective on biotechnology, esp. on import of bio-engineered crops into Europe, was provided by Dirk-Arie Toet from Nestle and Tony Van der haegen, Minister-Counselor, European Commission Delegation (the Embassy of the European Union) in Washington DC. Gary Comstock, Iowa State University, discussed the ethics of agricultural biotechnology. One workshop addressed the issue of “Credibility in Communicating to Consumers About Biotechnology,” while another explored “Roles for Universities in Communicating about Biotechnology.”

This conference had approximately 200 attendees. It included leaders and representatives of academic and research institutions, government, food processing and manufacturing industry, producer organizations, and consumer advocacy groups. There were also several scientists, farmers, and media people. Most of the attendees were from the United States and Canada, though some people from Europe also attended.

The conference was successful in generating a public debate on the societal and consumer concerns related to agricultural biotechnology. It also helped different players – scientists, producers, regulators, and consumers – better understand each other’s perspectives. It also contributed to furthering the discussion between the US producers of bio-engineered corps and their overseas buyers.

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