Australian Agriculture Minister mounts case for GM food

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 19th October 2009

Australian farmers will be vital players in the drive to secure the world’s food supplies, Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke said on World Food Day (Friday), while also stating his case for genetically modified food.

World Food Day on 16 October each year marks the day the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations was founded in 1945. The day focuses attention on agricultural food production, heightens public awareness of the problem of hunger in the world and highlights achievements in food and agricultural development.

The theme for World Food Day 2009 was: ‘Achieving food security in times of crisis’ – as the world looks to find a way to increase food production by 70% over the next four decades.

“On the face of it, it’s an impossible equation – the only way we can meet what the world will demand is by following every possible path of scientific research,” Mr Burke claimed. “The days of people closing their minds to areas of biotechnology for food production are numbered.”

There are still a number of skeptics about GM-food with many saying it poses an unnecessary risk, but Mr Burke said he found it hard to fathom how a moral case could be mounted against it.

“Genetic modification won’t be the only answer but we need to give farmers every possible tool given the gravity of the challenge,” he added.

Australia among the world leaders

Australia is already a major food producer with total farm and fisheries production reaching $37.4 billion in 2007-08, including meat, dairy, grains, vegetables, oilseeds, sugar and seafood.

Around two-thirds of the food produced in Australia is exported, primarily to Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, India and Papua New Guinea.

Mr Burke said that Australia’s farming and seafood industries are world leaders in food production.

“There are many things people can survive without, but everyone needs to eat and Australian farmers are smarter at producing food than anyone else,” Mr Burke explained. “Our farmers have survived in often difficult conditions, boosting productivity while reducing water and pesticide use and our seafood industries constantly adopt new technology to reduce bycatch.”