The Pacific Declaration and the Future of Food

by Anna Lappé

Photo by Rucha Chitnis

The Pacific Declaration—shared with you below—was a statement drafted by two dozen scientists, ethicists, and experts in agriculture and environmental protection at the dawn of the age of genetic engineering. These forward-thinking leaders, including my own dad, were calling on regulators, policymakers—all of us—to embrace a precautionary approach to these new technologies. Now, as we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this declaration, their words feel as relevant as ever. We share the complete statement and signatories below. You can read my Earth Island Journal column about it here.


We the undersigned, in recognition of the fundamental importance of our planet’s natural genetic heritage and diversity, and in acknowledgment of the power of genetic engineering to transform this heritage, believe that the proponents and practitioners of genetic technologies must adhere to the principles of prudence, transparency and accountability.

We also aver that respect for life, ensuring a habitable planet, and protecting ecosystems are universally recognized and fundamental human values. For this reason, those altering the genetic integrity of natural species bear the burden of proving their interventions will not jeopardize these values.

We also believe in democracy. In democratic societies, any decision to deploy powerful new technologies must be made with full public participation and accountability. To date, our government, international agencies, public universities and biotechnology corporations have neglected these objectives. Therefore we declare:

    1. Environmental safety and public health require the systematic study of any transgenically modified living organism over multiple generations before allowing its environmental release or marketing;
    2. All proposed products derived from genetic engineering must be shown to contribute to the general welfare of consumers, farmers and society without compromising the viability of traditional agricultural practices, including organic farming;
    3. Farmers and agrarian peoples generally who have cultivated, nurtured and developed crops have the right to control their crop materials;
    4. Such control includes the right to cultivate indigenous or conventional species using traditional methods, and freely to use or re-use any genetic seed stock;
    5. People should have access to all relevant data concerning the potential effect of genetically modified organisms on the health of present or future generations;
    6. People have the right to accept or decline any food product for personal, religious or philosophical reasons;
    7. In the absence of compelling evidence showing the equivalence and safety of genetically engineered compared to conventional foods, all food products derived from genetic technologies must be accurately labeled;
    8. The medical injunction to “do no harm” requires adequate and sufficient pre- and post-market testing and surveillance of genetically engineered products;
    9. The present lack of such testing contravenes this injunction and thereby jeopardizes universal access to safe food, potentially putting at risk present and future vulnerable populations including pregnant women and young children; and
    10. Because the fundamental discoveries of genetic engineering were developed through public funding, justice requires that any and all risks, costs and benefits of the products of genetic engineering be equitably distributed in society.

Until we have guarantees and assurances that the above-stated requirements and objectives are no longer compromised by government and industry practices; and

Until our government has created a comprehensive and effective regulatory system for all products of genetic engineering; and

Until such fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed protections of life and liberty, as well as protection of the health of the environment, food security and consumer right to know are vouchsafed;

We call upon our governmental representatives to suspend any further introduction of genetically engineered organisms and to hold the practitioners of genetic engineering, whether they be corporations, universities or governmental agencies fully liable for any adverse consequences of their work.



Alliance for Bio-Integrity
Steven M. Druker, President
Fairfield, Iowa

Campaign for Food Safety
Ronnie Cummins, National Director
Little Marais, Minnesota

Center for Environmental Health
Michael Green
Oakland, CA

Center for Ethics and Toxics
Marc Lappé, Director
Britt Bailey, Senior Associate
Gualala, CA

Center for Food Safety
Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director
Washington, D.C.

Michael Lerner, President
Davis Baltz
Bolinas, CA

The Constellation Fund
Christina L. Desser
San Francisco, CA

Consumer’s Choice Council
Chad Dobson, Director
Washington, DC

Corporate Agribusiness Research Project
A.V. Krebs, Director
Everett, WA

Council for Responsible Genetics
Martin Teitel, Executive Director
Ruth Hubbard
Doreen Stabinsky
Paul R. Billings
Cambridge, MA

The Edmonds Institute
Beth Burrows, President/Director
Edmonds, WA

Environmental Health Fund
Gary Cohen, Executive Director
Lowell, MA

Food and Farming Forum
Claire Cummings, Director
Berkeley, CA

Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy
Peter M. Rosset, Executive Director
Oakland, CA

Foundation on Economic Trends
Jeremy Rifkin, President
Jon Akland, Research Director
Burlington, VT

Friends of the Earth
Larry Bohlen, Director, Health and Environment Programs
Washington, DC

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Mark Ritchie, President
Renske van Staveren
Minneapolis, MN

The Natural Law Party of the USA
Kingsley Brooks, Chairman
Laura Ticciati, Executive Director
Mothers for Natural Law
Fairfield, Iowa

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
Dave Henson, Executive Director
Occidental, CA

Pesticide Action Network of North America
Ellen Hickey, Director of Research and Communications
San Francisco, CA

Pesticide Watch
Gregg Small, Executive Director
San Francisco, CA

Rural Advancement Foundation International, USA
Michael Sligh, Director of Sustainable Agriculture
Chapel Hill, NC

Rural Vermont
Ellen H. Taggart, Executive Director
Montpelier, VT

Washington Biotechnology Action Council
Philip Bereano
Seattle, WA

Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
John Fawcett-Long, Coordinator
William Aal
Seattle, WA

American Corn Growers Association
Dan McGuire, Policy Chairman
Lincoln, NE


Abiquiu Organics
Scott Markman
Abiquia, NM

Alliance for Democracy of Indiana
Stefanie Miller, Secretary
Indianapolis, IN

Association of State Green Parties, U.S.A.
Anna Goeke, Tom Sevigny, Betty Zisk, Co-Chairs
[Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming]

Breast Cancer Fund
Andrea Martin, Founder and Executive Director
San Francisco, CA

Calvary Church
Douglass M. Bailey, Rector
William Shephard, Calvary Green Committee Chairman
Memphis, TN

Center for Environmental Health
Ann Melamed, Health Care
Without Harm Project Manager
Oakland, CA

Community Health Advocates
Michael Freund
San Francisco, CA

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund
Tom Turner*
San Francisco, CA

Environmental Health Coalition
Joy Williams
San Diego, CA

Herb Barbolet, Executive Director
Vancouver, BC

Catholic Healthcare West
Susan Vickers
San Francisco, CA

Collective Heritage Institute
Nina Simons, Public Policy and Legal Services Coordinator
Santa Fe, NM

Earth Justice Ministries
Reverend Sharon Delgado
Santa Cruz, CA

Episcopal Diocese of California, Commission for the Environment
The Reverend Sally Bingham, Chair
San Francisco, CA

Green Party of St. Louis/Gateway Green Alliance
Barbara Chicherio, Co-coordinator,
St. Louis, MO

The Humane Society of the United States
Dr. Michael W. Fox, Senior Scholar, Bioethics
Washington, DC

Indicators Program, Redefining Progress
Mathis Wackernagel, Director
San Francisco, CA

Institute for World Religions
Ron Epstein, Research Professor
Berkeley, CA

Mendocino Environmental Center
Linda McClure, Coordinator
Ukiah, CA

Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet
Betsy Lydon, Program Director
New York, New York

Natural Resources Defense Council
Gina M. Solomon, Senior Scientist
San Francisco, CA

Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Sustainable Agriculture
Program Association
Jeff Rast
Fairfield, ID

Organic Consumers Association
Ben Lilliston, Director,
Little Marais, Minnesota

Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters
Sr. Lucy Regalado, President
Leadership Team Council Member
Huntington, Indiana

Physicians for Social Responsibility
Robert M. Gould, President
SF-Bay Area Chapter
San Francisco, CA

Shalom Center
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
Philadelphia, PA

Sierra Club
Laurel Hopwood, Biotechnology Task Force Chair
San Francisco, CA

Sisters, Adrian Dominican
Margaret Weber
Adrian, MI

Soul of Agriculture
Stanislaus J. Dundon*
Davis California

Sussex County Mission of the Episcopal Church &
Delmarva Poultry Justice Alliance
Reverend Jim Lewis
Bethany Beach, Delaware

Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Stacie Clary, Director
Santa Cruz, CA

Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison Greens
John E. Peck
Madison, WI

Women’s Cancer Resource Center
Diane Estrin, Executive Director
Catherine Porter, Public Policy and Legal Services Coordinator
Berkeley, CA

*organizational affiliation listed for the purpose of identification only