Wednesday 16 October 2013 (Canberra) – On World Food Day, the plant science industry is asking governments to support the solutions to hunger and malnutrition already at their fingertips.

“The future of food production depends upon advances in science and technology, which allow farmers to deliver more food with fewer resources,” said Matthew Cossey, CEO of CropLife Australia, today.

“For example, technology exists right now that will enable farmers to grow staple crops that dramatically increase the dietary intake of micronutrients needed by children and adults suffering from malnutrition. Every established scientific body across the globe has agreed that food produced using this technology is as safe as conventional food. And yet, because of the misinformation campaigns of the privileged few, nutritionally enhanced GM crops have been prevented from reaching farmers and saving lives.

“Modern chemistry and biotechnology have made a varied, nutritious diet possible for many people across the globe. Unfortunately, political, economic and climatic realities mean that there are people in certain parts of the world who exist only on one or two staple foods all year round.

“Almost half of the global population exists on a diet consisting mainly of rice. Roots and tubers account for roughly 40 per cent of the food eaten by half the population of sub-Saharan Africa, and Cassava provides a basic diet for around 500 million people. Without paradigm shifts in power, wealth and resource distribution, it is unlikely that a rich and varied diet will reach these parts of the population any time soon.

“But there is a way to get more nutrients into those staple crops to help the one out of every four children in the world under the age of five who will never reach their full physical or cognitive potential because of insufficient nutrition. Biotechnology enables scientists to breed more nutritious staple crops.

“For rice-dependent populations in developing countries, the availability of GM Golden Rice could provide sufficient vitamin A to substantially reduce the 6,000 deaths caused every day by vitamin A deficiency in a fast, efficient manner. Similar projects for provitamin A enriched bananas and cassava are underway in Africa.

“Advances in plant science have also increased sustainable production, allowing more food to be grown using fewer natural resources. Around half of the world’s current crops would be lost without crop protection products. Further, if crop biotechnology had not been available to the 17.3 million farmers using the technology in 2011, maintaining global production at the 2011 levels would have required additional plantings equivalent to 33 per cent of the arable land in Australia.

“Although issues like food waste, distribution and politics are key considerations in any debate about food and nutrition security, the simple fact that our planet’s population is increasing and our farmland is shrinking cannot be denied.  We need all types of farming to meet global food demand.  As pressure on land resources increase, plant science is a vital tool in feeding the world, while improving environmental sustainability.

“Equitable food systems are made possible by evidence-based policies and legislative frameworks, incentives for innovation, and responsible stewardship. Australia has the opportunity to lead the way in efficient regulation and cutting-edge research,” Mr Cossey concluded.

Contact: Jessica Lee (Manager – Public Affairs)  Ph: 02 6230 6399  Mob: 0410 491 261