BRUSSELS, Belgium ¿ The European biotechnology industry has been quick to seize upon the support offered by a group of international scientists for agricultural biotechnology.

EuropaBio, the European biotechnology industry association, immediately hailed the endorsement by more than 1,000 scientists, including two Nobel Prize winners, of genetically modified foods as safe, environmentally friendly and a useful tool to help feed the developing world. The declaration describes agricultural biotechnology as a way to help improve the quality of life, EuropaBio pointed out.

The petition itself, published on the Internet, includes 1,334 scientists from most EU member states, Canada, the United States, South Africa, India and Israel. Two Nobel Prize winners, James Watson and Norman Borlaug, also signed the declaration. EuropaBio said the scientists confirm that existing government regulations for the approval of new genetically modified crops have worked well, and that they encourage the development of plants that require fewer pesticides and herbicides. ¿Through judicious deployment, biotechnology can also address environmental degradation, hunger and poverty in the developing world by providing improved agricultural productivity and greater nutritional security,¿ EuropaBio quoted the declaration as saying.

EuropaBio, which has committed itself this year to a more aggressive policy of defending the interests of biotechnology as it wrestles with ongoing changes in European Union rules governing biotechnology, also cited the declaration¿s views on regulation: ¿We also urge policymakers to use sound scientific principles in the regulation of products produced with recombinant DNA, and to base evaluations of those products upon the characteristics of those products, rather than on the processes used in their development,¿ the document said.