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Europe must act on global food crisis, say developing country scientists

Life scientists from developing countries have made an impassioned plea for Europe to support life sciences research designed to address the global food crisis. The scientists were speaking at a symposium held in Alexandria, Egypt, which was organised by the EU-funded EAGLES...

Life scientists from developing countries have made an impassioned plea for Europe to support life sciences research designed to address the 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 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 which 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.' 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.