Do we still need to feed the world?

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?

9 Responses to Do we still need to feed the world?

  1. Viv says:

    When you say “If we could do more to feed the world” I presume you are talking about the hungry in third world countries. Milk powder, tomatoes, capsicum and squash are not the staple foods of the world’s poor. And you have the gall to suggest that others are basing decisions on emotion not science! .
    Where are the independent, long term studies that prove the safety of GM crops?

    The starving people in the world are suffering because of deficiencies in the food distribution system. The biggest threat to world food security today is climate change, but the National government is still waiting for Tim Groser to find the keys to that particular bus.

    If you are truly concerned about hungry people, how about starting with those kids living in poverty in NZ who have gone to school today without a proper breakfast.

  2. ploughboy says:

    of course we do.producing food is one of the few things we do better than other countrys.
    i thought one of the reasons for having a ets was” to do our share”i would say we would have a bigger imput on world food than world greenhouse gases

  3. homepaddock says:

    I agree that distribution is part of the problem – too much food in some places, not enough in others.

    Fonterra is extending its milk in schools programme nationwide after the success of the trial in Northland, that will help hungry children here.

  4. homepaddock says:

    The Green version of “doing our share” applies only to that part of the share which fits their political agenda.

  5. willdwan says:

    I reckon genetic modification is a bit like the gay marriage it shares an acronym with. There is a bit of a yuck factor, but it’s inevitable in the long run; may as well get used to it.

  6. Ali says:

    I agree. Lets explore the potential of GE in a safe and contained environment. So far GE has failed to live up to its hype. Even the supposed potential spoken of has little or no substance. Just look to the Australian ‘conventional’ farmers who embraced GE and lets hear more of their stories (based on real life experience) before we swallow the hype surrounding GE hook line and sinker. The Greens are right to be cautious. Show us the evidence! oh wait you cant because right now it’s all just hype.

  7. Roger Barton says:

    Lets look at the Australian cotton industry. I tend to think growing cotton is bad for the planet. (I’m a wool grower) Huge amount of water involved and loads of chemicals. One of the advantages of GM cotton is that they can plant it in sensitive places where they want to avoid use of sprays. Example might be where a cotton field borders a housing area. This info came from one of my ex employees who has been involved in that industry for some years. he sees it as a vast improvement on what they used to do

  8. Meg says:

    Many of those who are opposed to GM are unaware of conventional plant breeding methods, some of which can be considered more questionable than GM plant breeding, there are huge opportunities in GM NZ needs to have a well reasoned and science based discussion on these.

  9. JC says:

    “NZ needs to have a well reasoned and science based discussion on these.”

    Not anymore. A decade on from our own self imposed hiatus and much of the developed world has innovated more GM and GE and added another decade to the safety record.

    Its time to get with the programme.


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