CSIRO chief says GM research needs to be more transparent

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 30th August 2011

The Chief Executive of Australia’s leading science agency, the CSIRO, has warned that scientists and food producers must first earn community trust if scientific developments in plant genetics are to improve health and support global food supply.

In a statement published today, the CSIRO’s Chief Executive Megan Clark said there is a gap between the concerns of the community and the knowledge of scientists around genetic research.

Ms Clark said, “We recognise that the modification of genes in plants causes concern in sections of the community. However, we also know that many people will be comfortable with genetic modification in food products if they can be assured they are beneficial for human health and safe for the environment.

“We research the genes of plants to improve human health outcomes, increase the take-up of nutrients from soil, improve yields and provide resistance to plant diseases. Our genetic modification research generally involves turning off genes, changing the timing of the expression of some genes or inserting genes from different plants.

“When it comes to our food supply, the world’s population could reach 9 billion by 2050 and the global challenge is to produce 70 per cent more food in the next 40 years. To meet that food demand we need to increase our agricultural yields and increase the efficiency of how plants take up nutrients. It means growing plants that use less water to produce the same output and improving resistance to disease and pests.

“Across the very extensive and prolonged use worldwide, there has been no evidence of harm to human health associated with the use of GM technology. In Australia we’ve been growing and consuming GM products for at least 15 years with GM cotton and carnations grown commercially since 1996 and GM canola since 2008,” Ms Clark said.