Genetic modification grain may help save world from starvation: expert

23 May 2013. Source:

To keep a competitive edge in agricultural production and feed a growing global population, Australia needs to look further into Genetic modified (GM) foods, GrainCorp CEO Alison Watkins told agribusiness representatives Thursday.

Speaking at a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) forum in Sydney, Watkins encouraged Australians to consider the benefits of GM technology in the face of potential global food shortages in the future.

To feed a global population of almost 10 billion by 2050, the world will require an extra 1 billion tonnes of grain to be grown each year, Watkins said, and Australia must do its part to stave off world hunger while protecting its own economy.

“For Australia to protect our share of global trade, we have to grow our national crop size to 60 million tonnes. That’s about 50 percent more than what we currently produce,” Watkins said.

According to Watkins, Australia does not have much more land available for grain growing in order to double its production by 2050, and the pressures of climate change are likely to make this target even more difficult to realise.

Despite GM foods being regulated by the Australian government, the technology has been haunted by community distrust and opposition.

Australian scientists were outraged in 2011 when environmental activist group Greenpeace destroyed experimental GM wheat crops in development in a CSIRO greenhouse near Canberra. No genetically modified wheat strain had ever been approved for cropping in Australia before.

Watkins says she is not advocating the introduction of unsafe and untested GM grain varieties.

Watkins warned that ignoring the potential of GM grain to help feed the world could result in Australia becoming uncompetitive and irrelevant in the global agricultural marketplace, and potentially contribute to poverty and famine.