Monsanto and Syngenta are wrong to pull out of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology, says this Nature editorial.
The four-year, US$10 million assessment hopes to be like 'an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change' for hunger and poverty. Its report is due to be published later this year.
No public explanations were offered for the two companies' withdrawal but a spokesperson for agriculture industry body CropLife said it was prompted by an absence of industry perspectives from the draft reports.
Insiders say the draft report is lukewarm about biotechnology's potential for developing world agriculture, focusing on risks rather than advantages and warning about the dangers of the biotech industry's dominance of agricultural research.
The editorial says that, although the draft is over-cautious and unbalanced, the view that biotechnology cannot by itself reduce hunger and poverty is widely held among agricultural scientists and policymakers.
Nature says the assessment's secretariat and chairs need to ask themselves how two founding members reached the point of walking out.
Monsanto and Syngenta's absence is a blow to the credibility of an important scientific assessment and will undermine public confidence in the industry's ability to engage with critics, the editorial says.