Editorial

- Darryl Macer, Ph.D.

Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba Science City, 305, JAPAN

Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 2 (1992), 1.


In this edition, the first of 1992, there are two new reports from Japan discussed. Both reports were released in December 1991. The first is on the release of GMOs into the environment (p. 4), and the decision not to make a special bill to regulate this. The second, is the approval for organ transplantation from brain dead donors who have recorded their consent (p. 12).

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The Impact of Biotechnology in Agriculture and Food in Developing Countries, Conference Report

Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 2 (1992), 15-16.


An International seminar organised by COSTED (The Committee on Science and Technology in Developing Countries) and ANBS (The Asian network for Biological Science), co-sponsored by the Third World Academy of Sciences, ICSU, and international bodies; was held in Madras, India, 3-4 February. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this meeting. I will report on some of the discussions there.

The full report will be published later this year, enquiries to: COSTED Secretariat, 24 Gandhi Mandap Road, Madras 600 025, INDIA.

The emphasis was on the concerns about the impacts and the progress of biotechnology in these areas in developing countries and also in the general Asia area. The status of biotechnology research in a range of countries (people from about 25 countries attended the meeting) was discussed. A general theme was that due to the very limited research facilities, human and material resources, research in these countries should focus on specific local needs, and not attempt to pursue the same research that the industrialised countries and in particular the huge companies in those countries, are doing. It would be a waste of limited resources. It is also important that developing countries research their local needs because these are generally ignored by researchers in industrialised countries.

However, many examples of useful research projects were described. One area that appeared to be well advanced in some developing countries was the development and application of biological pest control, and biopesticides, especially in India. National reports from Indonesia, Phillipines, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Nepal, Korea, Bangladesh, Singapore and Malaysia were presented, in addition to regional reports from Asia, Latin America, Western & Central Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa. A very successful example of regional cooperation in biotechnology from Latin America was described, which had crossed national boundaries and led to many cooperative research projects to join resources and result in successful projects.

In addition to the reports there were also keynote addresses on the scientific developments until now, and likely in the future, on the nutritional safety of farm products produced by genetic manipulation, on ethical issues, on environmental safety, and on sustainable development. A variety of issues were raised, which are familiar to the pages of this newsletter. What was unique of this conference was its focus on the issues for developing countries.

International safeguards on food safety and environmental releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be made, so that these countries are not used as testing grounds. Justice demands that the benefits and risks of new technology development are shared by all people. It may however, be difficult to control individual abuses, such as the secret release of genetically modified organisms in a developing country. Perhaps the only reassurance that we can take is that most such releases appear to be safe, but we should still attempt to regulate internationally in a consistent method.

The conference had enjoyable discussions, and we visited the Centre for Biotechnology at the adjacent Anna University to see a local laboratory, which is successfully making biopesticides based on