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Biotechnology is sustainability

4 September 2012

Biotechnology is sustainability

Biotechnologists are working hard to feed billions more humans without collapsing the environment or denuding the world of precious resources. This is an area New Zealand could show leadership in, if the political will exists.

“By 2050 there could be a staggering three billion extra stomachs on this earth; how we can sustain everyone is a major part of the 12th International Conference for Agricultural Biotechnology (ABIC),” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President, speaking from ABIC 2012 in Rotorua.

“This need to feed the planet could best be described as the Food Race. It is as important as anything we have done in our history as a species but hinges on a second green revolution. That means maximising the full potential of the biological sciences.

“How do we maximise the productive potential of our livestock, plants and crops? How can we achieve true sustainability by feeding so many extra people but consuming the same, if not fewer resources than we use today?

“This is what biotechnology and biotechnologists are striving to achieve with less available farmland. Being in Rotorua, for ABIC 2012, it has suddenly struck me that biotechnology is sustainability.

“Biotechnologists are striving to do more from less. We have the opportunity to use biotechnology as a tool to boost out sustainability credentials.

“The challenge for New Zealand is to produce more food and fibre of higher quality and with increased safety, while reducing our environmental footprint. Science, including biotechnology, can provide us with the tools to achieve these seemingly impossible and contradictory goals.

“By any measure New Zealand ought to be a leader, no, it should be the leader. The fact we are not comes back to a timid political will.

“What I am drawing from ABIC is the need to look at our policy settings as they relate to science.

“If we want to keep our best brains in New Zealand and attract equally high calibre people from overseas, we must be the country that can. Our science ecosystem must be allowed to push the high frontier. It is only by doing that can we sustainably feed the world.

“It is time for rational and informed debate about all tools and options, including genetic modification, which is now become the fastest adopted agricultural technology in history,” Dr Rolleston concluded.


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