[ASC-media] Media release: GM crops 'cut greenhouse gas'

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Fri Aug 11 12:45:00 CEST 2006

International Association of Agricultural Economists 26th Triennial Conference
Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, Australia
August 12-18, 2006	  


Saturday, July 12, 2006							


Overcoming disease, combating soil salinity and even providing fuel for our cars are among the promised benefits of the biotechnology revolution.

Researchers today are only scratching the surface of the potential of biotech, says Professor Martina Newell-McGloughlin of the University of California (Davis), addressing a panel at the International Association of Agricultural Economics conference on Australia's Gold Coast  today (August 12, 2006).

Professor Newell-McGloughlin says that in the first decade of GM crop production, global net farm income increased by US$27 billion, while at the same time the environmental footprint of farming was reduced by 14%.

"Biotechnology is not a panacea or a cure-all" she says, "but it is an essential tool for improving the productivity of crops and for minimizing our impact on the environment."

Professor Newell-McGloughlin says that biotechnology offers a far more sustainable method of producing crops than traditional farming.

"In the age of large-scale genomics, we have a much better understanding of how plants function and of how whole metabolic pathways operate," she says. "This gives a much better chance to face the challenges of climate change, salinisation, and the wholesale depletion of our arable land."

Professor Newell-McGloughlin says that farmers around the world have boosted their productivity by using agricultural biotechnology.

"This technology means more ecologically healthy fields and much more efficient use of resources," she says. "It allows reduced tillage, which cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions, water runoff, machinery use, and soil erosion."

"The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in 2004 was the equivalent of taking some five million cars off the road for a year," she says. "And pesticide use also fell by some 170,000 tonnes."

Professor Newell-McGloughlin says that using GM technology, plant and forest wastes can be converted into fuel.

"All agriculture is going to feel the effects if oil becomes scarce and expensive," she says. "The GM solution to this problem is not far down the track - research has already reduced the cost of production of bio-fuel fromUS$5.00 to twenty cents per gallon."

Professor Newell-McGloughlin says that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) confirms that biotechnology and genetic engineering of crops holds great promise for agriculture in developing countries.

"More than seventy per cent of the word's poor still live in rural areas and depend directly on agriculture for their survival," she says. "Of the nearly nine million farmers in 21 countries who grew biotech crops in 2005, 90% of these were in developing countries."

Professor Newel-lMcGloughlin says that many common food crops are not perfectly suited for the nutritional requirements of humans or animals. And there is growing scientific evidence for the health advantages of plant-based foods in the prevention and cure of disease. Biotechnology, she says, offers approaches to enhance the potential for crop plants to deliver these health benefits.

"Agricultural research of all forms holds an important key to meeting the needs of millions of people," she says. "This is good for growers, consumers and anyone who cares about the environment."

The International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) 26th Annual Conference on "The Contribution of Agricultural Economics to Critical Policy Issues" is at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, from August 12-18, 2006.

More information:
IAAE media centre, Gold Coast Convention Centre, +61 (0)7 5504 4019
Professor Martina Newell-McGloughlin +1 530 752 8237, 001-530-400-6476
Media contact: Prof. Julian Cribb, 0418 639245

Conference program & details:

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