New Zealand is regarded as a leader in farming but we’re at risk of being left well behind if we don’t adopt 21st century biotechnology.
Crop-enhancing biotechnology is the world’s best hope of feeding a population expected to double by 2050, but scientists at an international conference in Rorotua this week warned NZ is in danger of missing the bus as resistance to genetic modification blocks development. AgResearch scientist Tony Conner said the amount of land planted with GM crops worldwide last year was 6 times the size of NZ. “If we continue to not adopt this technology, we run a huge risk of being left behind..In another decade we could be dealing with yesterday’s crops.”
No GM crops are grown in NZ, despite the vast potential for improved output from homegrown GM pastures, alongside exported products such as tomatoes, capsicum and squash. The loss in not embracing GM has been put at $1.5bn.
The reason we’re not embracing GM is that opposition based on emotion rather than science is dominating the discussion.
Caution with anything new is sensible but the blanket ban on genetic modification is blinkered.
Green MP Steffan Browning who helped lead a protest against the conference contends NZ should rely on organic and traditional means of producing food. “Rather than going for volume we need to be going for best value and not compromise our brand.” A research study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine could find little evidence food produced organically, without artificial fertilisers or other chemicals, is healthier or the vitamin content was any different.
Genetic modification might help farmers reduce the need for artificial fertilisers and pesticides, it would definitely enable us to produce more.
Food security is one of the biggest issues facing the world.
Although we export most of the food we produce, it’s not a lot on a global scale. Genetic modification could enable us to produce more food with better nutritional value.
If we could do more to feed the world, should we, or is it acceptable to keep the blinkers on, worry only about our little corner and let someone else concern themselves with feeding the hungry?