Prospectus of Citizens' Biotechnology Information Center

Global environmental pollution, destruction of the ecosystem, the crisis in agriculture, and food safety and security are all vital issues of the 21st century, creating a need for it to be considered the "environmental century". Nevertheless, there are those who claim that the biotech industry will be a major player in the 21st century in terms of wealth creation and economic growth. The market share for biotechnology already stands at 1,200 billion yen, with pharmaceuticals accounting for 40% of the biotech sector and agriculture some 20%. The government of Japan estimates that by 2010 the market for biotech could grow to 25 trillion yen.

However, there are major concerns about the use of genetic engineering - a commonly used technique in modern biotechnology - because it involves the manipulation and reconstruction of genes, which form the very blueprint of life, and because such a powerful technology could give rise to the unexpected destruction of ecosystems. Despite this, genetically engineered crops have already been introduced into the world market, without sufficient assessment of their risks or safety, and with no public involvement in decision making and no transparency.

Concern has centered particularly on agriculture. As the planting area of genetically engineered crops has expanded, environmental and food safety issues have come into ever greater prominence. There is also a closely related concern that the giant agro-chemical corporations are gaining control over the world's food supply.

In addition, research and development involving the genetic engineering of livestock, fish and trees is evolving as is the application of cloning technologies, bringing closer the prospect of the reconstruction of the human species.

There has been a need for an informative body which is independent from government or industry, to investigate, evaluate and analyse issues relating to biotechnology.

The Citizens' Biotechnology Information Center(CBIC) was founded in October 2001. CBIC's aim is to provide a reliable information source which can inform the public independently of the government or industry. It is also intended to function as a citizens' think tank.

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