The ABC morning news program “Breakfast’ held a brief debate today on the issue of genetically modified crops. GM crops are in the limelight again due to the Federal Government launching its first National Food Plan this week and its endorsement of GM technology
Fran Kelly, the host, interviewed Matthew Cossey (CEO of Crop Life Australia – the peak organisation representing the agricultural chemical sector) Paula Fitzgerald (Grain Growers and the Australian Biotechnology Council) and Bob Phelps (Director, National Gene Ethics Network).
The interview began with Matthew Cossey talking up the industry arguments as to why we have an urgent need for GM crops. With the inevitable significant population increases the only way to feed all the hungry mouths is by increasing our productivity with GM crops.
The argument is intended to instil a sense of panic in the listener through the fear that any day soon we will run out of food. The sensible conclusion is for us to embrace GM foods that will protect against the vagaries of nature (drought, frost, soil salinity etc) and increase levels of food production.
Bob Phelps countered this by pointing out that there is not any research that demonstrates an increase in yield for GM crops over conventional crops. The often discussed traits of drought and frost resistance of GM crops have never made it beyond the ‘great idea’ stage and there have been no significant technological advances in GM research since 1995 despite billions of dollars being invested into the research.
Bob Phelps highlighted that there are significant benefits of GM technology but that they are enjoyed in the form of profits by the core producers of GM seeds (Monsanato, Bayer and Dow) as well as of increased control over agriculture production. Farmers, in contrast, gain little and instead get locked into a style of food production that is almost impossible to break.
You can find the podcast for the interview here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/perspectives-on-genetically-modified-crops/4140252