An open letter, headed "Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)" and signed by 828 scientists from 84 different countries, details concerns that many scientists from around the world have regarding the hazards of GMOs, and demands a moratorium on environmental releases in accordance with the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle states: "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof." The letter has been submitted to many governments and international organizations including the World Trade Organization, UN Biosafety Protocol Meeting, UN Commission on Sustainable Development, UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United States Congress, all of which received the letter in either the year 1999 or 2000.
The scientists are extremely concerned about the hazards of GMOs to biodiversity, food safety, human and animal health. Other points that they make in the article include:
• Opposition to GM crops that will intensify corporate monopoly, exacerbate inequality and prevent the essential shift to sustainable agriculture that can provide food security and health around the world.
• Calling for a ban on patents of life-forms and living processes which threaten food security, sanction biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources and violate basic human rights and dignity.
• Support for more research and development of non-corporate, sustainable agriculture that can benefit family farmers all over the world.
The letter makes note of the many problems that have been found in the use of GM crops. Shortcomings of this failed corporate agricultural practice include yield drag, increased herbicide use, erratic performance, and poor economic returns to farmers. They also mention that GM crops intensify corporate monopoly on food, driving farmers to destitution and preventing the shift to sustainable agriculture that will be necessary to guarantee food security and health around the world.
Additional hazards of GMO use are its threat to biodiversity, the potential to spread antibiotic resistance marker genes, which would render infectious diseases untreatable, and harmful mutations which may lead to cancer.
The scientists claim that the only practical way of restoring agricultural land degraded by conventional agronomic practices and empowering small family farmers to combat poverty and hunger is by giving greater support to sustainable, low-input, organic farming.
As stated in the letter, "We urge the US Congress to reject GM crops as both hazardous and contrary to the interest of family farmers; and to support research and development of sustainable agricultural methods that can truly benefit family farmers all over the world."