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Page last update: 25/12/2008

Scientists from developing countries urge European action on global food crisis

Soaring food prices, stoked by the increasing cost of fuel, have pushed about 100 million people around the world even deeper into poverty. The result has been a major increase in the numbers of those going hungry according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP). In response, life scientists from developing countries have made an impassioned plea for Europe to support research designed to address the growing global food crisis.

The scientists were speaking at a symposium held in Alexandria, Egypt, which was organised by the EU-funded EAGLES ('European action on global life sciences') project. In a statement issued after the conference, the scientists describe themselves as 'dismayed and even horrified at the persistent failure of Europe to deploy its life sciences effectively in the fight against hunger'.

Around the world, some 800 million people are suffering from chronic hunger and there are 40,000 hunger-related deaths every day. The scientists are now concerned that climate change and the increasing use of biofuels could exacerbate this situation.

On biofuels, the researchers highlight the growing trend for the conversion of traditional food crops into energy crops. They recommend that no new energy production system be introduced in Europe without research that demonstrates that the system will not negatively impact on local and global food security.

'European life sciences can and must help to provide new solutions to the energy crisis without taking food from the poor,' the scientists state.

The need for European research

The authors of the statement warn that without adequate support, Europe's life scientists will fall behind their counterparts in the rest of the world, where scientists are drawing on biotechnology and traditional plant breeding techniques to develop new plant varieties that are already benefiting farmers and consumers.

The researchers call on Europeans to fulfil their obligations to humanity and commit themselves to abolishing hunger as they had once campaigned to abolish slavery.

'Life scientists everywhere have a responsibility to address these global challenges and to ensure that policies facilitate this,' the statement reads. 'The people of Europe and their leaders should pay careful attention to the knowledge and advice of distinguished life scientists and humanists from the developing countries.'

Grassroots organisation

The EAGLES project is funded under the 'Food quality and safety' Thematic Area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). Its aim is to bring together life scientists from Europe and the developing world to tackle hunger and disease and ensure that European skills and resources in the life sciences are used for the good of all people. It raises awareness of the scale of humanitarian crises and ensures that the skills and resources of European life sciences are properly used for the benefits of all humankind.

'Europe has a moral role in developing the rest of the world; it's also in its own interest to be part of this development,' Jens Degett, Executive Director of EAGLES, told CORDIS News.

'EAGLES is a kind of a grassroots organisation which started with researchers from the developed world meeting researchers from the developing world. They saw that they had a lot of things in common and a lot of important issues to take up together,' explained Mr Degett.

'Some of the researchers from the developed world, especially Europe, saw they had a moral obligation to do something about the serious problems of the developing world,' he continued.

Established in 2003, the project organises a whole host of activities, including symposia on some of the most pressing problems.

Source: CORDIS News

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Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top