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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has given US$14.8 million to a consortium of professionals and institutions with knowledge of biosafety programmes and policy development in developing countries to help such countries evaluate and manage the effects of modern biotechnology on the environment and human health.

The Program for Biosafety Systems aims to improve regional cooperation on issues related to genetically modified (GM) organisms, to help governments formulate science-based policies on GM crops and to build collaboration between agricultural research and conservation communities in the United States and developing countries.

"Modern biotechnology has significant potential for improving agriculture in developing countries, but any nation wishing to benefit from biotechnology needs a functional biosafety system," says Joel Cohen of the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) in the Netherlands, who leads the consortium. "Through this project, we hope to help our partners determine how best to create such a system, making sound decisions based on scientific evidence."

The initiative, which will last for five years, began in May. It will initially work with Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and East and West Africa.

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