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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology was established in 2001 to be an independent and objective source of credible information on agricultural biotechnology for the public, media and policymakers. Funded through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the University of Richmond, the Initiative advocates neither for, nor against, agricultural biotechnology. Instead, the Initiative is committed to providing information and encouraging debate and dialogue so that consumers and policymakers can make their own informed decisions about the technology.

The debate over agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified foods continues to mount as voices both for and against the technology get louder. As the debate is increasingly characterized in the media by the extremes, it has become more and more difficult for uninformed Americans to gather objective and credible information about this rapidly changing technology. The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology was established with this in mind and through its programs, reports, polls and research, it seeks to provide a “safe haven” of credible information to help consumers and policymakers make informed decisions about this transformative technology. The Pew Initiative receives no funding from private industry, consumer or environmental groups.

While debate continues about the benefits and risks of agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified foods, it is clear that the use of this technology is growing. The Pew Initiative strives to provide a fact-based neutral platform to provide information from all sides of the debate, distill that credible information gleaned from experts and researchers and convey it to the many stakeholders in the debate. The Initiative’s web site provides free access to original reports, issue briefs, poll data, and other pertinent research in an easily accessible format for download and discussion.

In early 2001 the Initiative began a consensus project, called “The Stakeholder Forum”, for a small group of representatives from industry, public institutions, academia, consumer and environmental groups, and several other interested parties. For two years, this group worked to develop a consensus about recommendations that would enhance the regulatory review process for agricultural biotechnology. Although the group was not able to reach consensus, all participants agreed the process formed lasting relationships that would positively enhance the debate about agricultural biotechnology.

In late 2003, the Initiative hosted a conference in Mexico City, Mexico specifically examining the many scientific, cultural, ethical, economic and environmental questions surrounding the genetic diversity of maize, a species native to Mexico, as well as the introduction of genetically modified plants to centers of origin.

Pew Initiative reports have been acknowledged by members of industry, consumer groups, and agencies of the government as contributing to the debate over agricultural biotechnology and illuminating some of the key issues surrounding the regulation of GM foods as well as the benefits and potential risks to the environment and/or public health.

The Initiative has a staff of media experts who have been featured on radio and television, both domestically and internationally and have been quoted and sourced in hundreds of publications world-wide.

Since its inception, the Pew Initiative has helped to shape the debate about agricultural biotechnology by providing a foundation of information for policymakers, regulators and members of the media to push the dialogue into the public eye and openly discuss a regulatory framework that will protect public health, the foods we eat and examine the potential risks to the environment. Through these efforts, the Initiative aims to help move the discussion about this technology beyond conflict and toward a sustained process of constructive engagement about the regulation and use of this important tool.