UCT's Professor Jennifer Thomson (Department of Molecular and Cell Biology) will address a full sitting of the United Nations on November 6, at the invitation of United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan. Her topic is Genetically Modified Crops for Developing Nations
Speaking to the Monday Paper
shortly after the announcement, Thomson said: "I am completely overwhelmed by this honour. It will definitely be the most important address I have ever given. So many countries in the developing world are currently debating the use of GM crops that this couldn't have come at a more timely moment."
Thomson is one of two international scientists who will address the sitting. The other specialist, Professor Daphne Preuss of the University of Chicago, will talk on new opportunities from the latest advanced technologies in the field of genetic modification.
The honour follows Thomson's recent appointment as a member of the Inter Academy Council (IAC), an arm of the Inter Academy Panel, which provides scientific advice to international organisations on a range of scientific and technological topics.
She will serve on the IAC's panel for the study on "Food for Africa: harnessing science and technology to increase agricultural productivity in Africa", a study requested by Annan.
In a letter to Thomson, Professor Albert Koers, IAC Executive Director, wrote: "We are extremely pleased that you are ready to assist the IAC in this most important task. Of course, much high-quality work has already been done, and is being done, on the food problems in Africa, but we are confident that with such an excellent panel the IAC will indeed succeed in making a new and unique contribution. In this context it is important to us that the panel has a strong African representation."
Thomson will spend September 23 to 26 in Uganda for an IAC meeting. She recently returned from the first Brazilian symposium on food safety assessment of foods derived from genetically modified plants. This was organised by the Brazilian Department of Agriculture. Delegates at the symposium came up with a set of recommendations for the Brazilian government as they debate the use of GM crops.