St. Paul, Minn. (October 12, 2001)—The American Phytopathological Society (APS), the world’s largest organization of plant health scientists, has issued a formal statement in support of biotechnology. Citing the enormous potential benefits to humanity possible through biotechnology, while advocating responsible and science-based oversight and regulation, the APS members hope to call attention to the importance of biotechnology in their work.
“Virtually all aspects of plant pathology are affected by biotechnology,” states Sue Tolin, a plant pathologist with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a member of the APS Public Policy Board. “Advances in this area have played a critical role in our ability to identify and control plant pathogens that cause billions of dollars of crop losses each year, particularly in developing countries where diseases routinely destroy important food crops.”
Among the benefits outlined in the APS statement are the environmental positives promised through biotechnology. Plant pathologists point out that biotechnology is an important tool for reducing dependence of growers on synthetic pesticides for controlling plant diseases, and minimizing adverse environmental impacts of modern agriculture practices. The statement also calls for placing consideration of risks associated with plant disease management through biotechnology in perspective with other disease management approaches, including social, economic, and environmental issues and concerns.
“Biotechnology must be practiced in a responsible way, respectful of human, economic and environmental impacts,” states Noel Keen, current APS President. “We believe it would be an enormous setback if we were unable to continue the progress we’ve already made.” APS, he says, created and issued their statement at this time to underscore the substantial contribution biotechnology has made to the understanding and control of plant diseases, and to stress the important role it can play in future advancements.