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UN official urges ethical approach to issue of genetically modified organisms

UN official urges ethical approach to issue of genetically modified organisms

The head of the United Nations food agency today said biotechnology used to create new types of food must be handled ethically so that it will benefit humanity and not cause harm.

"Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), like all the new technologies, are instruments that can be used for good and for bad in the same way that they can be either managed to the benefit of the most needy or skewed to the advantage of specific groups," said Jacques Diouf, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Mr. Diouf said that as scientific progress produces "ever more powerful tools and seemingly boundless opportunities," it is all the more critical to apply ethical principles in determining how new technology should be used. "Above all, ways must be found to guarantee that increased production benefits accrue to the poor and food-insecure," he added.

The Director-General made his comments in conjunction with the release of two new FAO publications. The first, Ethical issues in food and agriculture, describes a vision for building an ethical and equitable food and agriculture framework. It states that such a framework must incorporate concern for improved well-being, protection of the environment and improved public health.

The second publication, Genetically modified organisms, consumers, food safety and the environment, seeks to explore the claims and counterclaims being made in the GMO debate from an ethical perspective, considering issues related to the ownership of the necessary tools to produce GMOs, the potential consequences of their use, and the undesirable effects that their application could have, both now and in the future.