What is in this article?:
- Australia losing biotech crop race
- Biotech conservation strategy
- The ban on GM crops in South Australia, through a moratorium that’s been in place for almost a decade, is stifling the opportunity to meet the challenge of food production.
Biotechnology isn’t just a boon to farmers. It’s also a conservation strategy.
Biotech conservation strategy
GM crops are much better at fending off weeds and insects. Without the assistance of GM crops, there has been an increase in the reliance on herbicides and pesticides to manage weeds and pests. In Australia’s cotton growing areas the introduction of insect resistant cotton has reduced the use of insecticide by around 85 percent resulting in healthier waterways, ecosystems and communities. And this could be replicated in other crops.
Biotechnology also lowers production costs, which become a savings we can pass on to consumers. It shows that environmental and economic sustainability can work hand in hand.
In South Australia, we’d make good use of biotechnology right away, especially with the planting of canola. Over time, the innovation we’d most welcome is drought-resistant wheat. This crop would be a great addition to the cropping program in low-rainfall regions such as ours. The technology is not yet widely available, though it’s near. And with the rate of productivity growth slowing over the last decade in Australia according to the “At a Glance 2010” publication released by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, it is certainly time for the next round of innovation on our farm. The one thing most responsible for holding it back is politics, not science.
We’re eventually going to have to accept agricultural biotechnology in all of its forms. The world has more than 7 billion people on it, with the equivalent of more than two Chinas expected to join to the global population by 2050. Most demographers think that farmers will have to double their production by the middle of the century.
Success will require growing more on each parcel of land–and we’ll have to make sure that every parcel is doing its part, including the marginal ones in the driest and thirstiest parts of Australia.
Heather Baldock and her husband Graeme grow wheat, barley, canola, peas and lupins on a 3rd generation family farm on Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Heather is a member of the Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Network (www.truthabouttrade.org).