Opinion Piece – Canberra Times – No need to fear our GM Word

    7 December 2011

    Published Canberrra Times – 7 December 2011

    Greenpeace and other anti-GM activists continue to run the same factless, alarmist, scaremongering against the technology of GM crops. Recent commentary does nothing but show how removed these multi-national professional activists are from the realities of modern agriculture and Australian farming.

    For the last 10,000 years crop breeders have been modifying the foods we eat to make them safer, more nutritious and more abundant. Many plants contain toxins to deter animals like us from eating them, but plant breeders have removed these from the foods that we eat to make them safe. The challenge to improve our food continues today and some plant breeders around the world are using the tools of modern biotechnology to perform this task. In the developing world, crops such as rice and cassava, provide cheap food to billions but current varieties lack many of the nutrients that the human body needs to survive.

    More than a million children die and 500,000 more go blind every year due to insufficient Vitamin A. Breeders at the International Rice Research Institute have developed a form of rice that has been enriched in pro-Vitamin A. This GM ”golden rice” will supplement the diets of these children and conservative estimates are that it will avert a quarter of these deaths.

    These technologies have been developed by public institutions, they will be provided at virtually no cost to farmers and they will save millions of lives. In Australia, GM crops have delivered huge benefits to our cotton industry and canola growers. In the cotton industry, insecticide applications have been reduced by 85per cent as a result of GM varieties. These benefits are only the beginning. Researchers at the CSIRO are working to improve wheat varieties.

    In the last 15 years, over one trillion meals with GM ingredients have been safely consumed. GM ingredients are the most tested and highly regulated of a majority of Australian products, akin only to pharmaceuticals.

    If GM crops had not been used to produce food, feed and fibre between 1996 and 2009, the world would have had to convert an area that is roughly the size of NSW to farmland in order to produce the same amount of food. About 18 billion kilograms of CO2 (or emissions from eight million cars) was removed from the atmosphere globally in 2009 through reduced fuel use and increased soil carbon capture via GM crops.

    GM trials are strictly regulated and have extensive conditions and controls placed on them. The Australian Government is extremely transparent about these trials. However, activist groups remain unsatisfied – they cite an extreme version of the precautionary principle and demand full certainty and zero risk, but they do not include in their calculations the risks from non-adoption.

    For this reason an increasing number of policymakers are starting to view this extreme version of the precautionary principle as the paralysing principle – the principle of inaction.

    Between 1996 and 2010 the area planted to GM crops increased 87-fold, making them the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture. Farmers have adopted them so rapidly because the benefits are obvious. It is a wonder why professional activists refuse to acknowledge the contribution these crops are making and their incredible potential for the future.

    Refer: No need to fear our GM World