Innovation will be the core to global food security solution

    14 October 2011

    World Food Day (Sunday 16 October) should be the cause for a genuine recommitment by government to actively support Australia’s agricultural sector so that it can do even more in contributing to global food security.

    Chief Executive Officer of CropLife Australia, Matthew Cossey, today said, ‘It is time for a renewed and coordinated effort by government at every level to ensure that Australia’s farming sector and associated agri‑industries are supported in meeting the genuine and serious challenges in supplying global food requirements. Key to this is ensuring the growth and continued innovation of the plant science industry, which delivers the technologies to meet the challenges of food security”.

    “With the world’s population set to grow by almost 50 per cent to 9 billion by 2050, food production globally will by that time need to increase by 70 per cent in order to avoid widespread hunger and starvation. At the same time, the ratio of arable land to population is expected to decline by 40-55 per cent and by 2025, some 1.8 billion people will be living with absolute water scarcity”.

    “This highlights that there has never been greater pressure on global agriculture with the innovation, development, approval and adoption of new agricultural technologies becoming increasingly important. Plant science innovation and the new technologies that come from it do not come easily. Research and development of a single new crop protection product now takes more than 10 years with costs of up to US$250 million”, said Mr Cossey.

    Through decades of hard work and commitment by the nation’s farmers and the broader agricultural sector, Australia is today in the very fortunate position where 93 per cent of its domestic food supply is met by local production, with Australia also able to export almost 76 per cent of the total gross value of Australian agricultural production. This should not, however, mean Australians are complacent about food ending up on their table daily.

    “New plant science technologies in crop protection products have over many decades allowed yields to increase significantly, safely, securely and sustainably. This has been further enhanced over the last fifteen years with great leaps forward in agricultural biotechnologies, which are equally proving to be invaluable to significant yield improvements and environmental benefits through the latest generation of GM crops”, Mr Cossey said.

    “The plant science industry is a critical industry that needs to be supported in its efforts to provide farmers with the latest technologies to allow them to produce more, using fewer natural resources. It is critical that farmers are equipped with all the necessary tools to increase their productivity. Already, 20-40 per cent of the world’s food production is lost to pests, weeds and diseases. This number would be double without effective crop protection products”.

    “Innovation will be at the core of a solution to global food security and the Australia Government must ensure its public policy settings and regulatory frameworks are encouraging this innovation, specifically in the plant science industry, and the agriculture sector more broadly”, said Mr Cossey.

    Mr Cossey maintains that achieving the goal of food security and protecting the environment is entirely achievable but requires formulation of bold measures by governments in supporting the private sector in their efforts to ensure farmers are fully equipped to meet these challenges.