Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Can GM Crops Feed the World?

This was the title of a recent documentary on SBS television in Australia. It covered the "adventures" of a young university agriculturally trained farmer, who was farming in a very traditional way in the UK, across several continents to examine for himself the issues around GM technology in modern agriculture.

Definitely worth watching or seeing on a DVD if you are interested.

From GM Roundup Ready soybeans in Argentina to the use or otherwise and its labelling of GM oils in food stuffs, in both Europe and North America to Uganda where GM technology was being used to develop black sigatoka resistant bananas.

GM technology is now quite common in plant genetics, of some use in animal production and likely to be more widely used. For example, GM technology has been used in cotton to reduce pesticide use in growing the crop, very successfully.

He really does not come up with a single answer..........but it does seem that big steps can be taken to enhance food security in many lesser developed areas through insect and disease resistance especially in the vegetatively propagated crops, with bananas a great example.

While not discussed on the tv program, Panama disease of bananas in the Asian region [which can be devastating] is also seen as a very suitable candidate for control via GM developed new banana varieties, and this issue is being researched already.

Maybe there is no single answer to the use of GM technology. But remember, similar heated debate also occurred about 70 - 80 years ago when hybrid corn and sorghum was developed. It was unnatural, the ruination of the world was imminent! But hybridisation of plants is now very much mainstream.

Will GM technology eventually go the same way??? To be well accepted as another tool in developing higher yielding and disease resistant crops and plants of all is even now being used on turfgrass.

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