Ag experts reveal GM crops the only choice to survive

"People need to look ahead and see what we are facing here," he told The Australian in an exclusive interview. "We saw the food prices this year that went through the roof across the world. "It is only going to get more intense if you look at the population growth in the future." He says that feeding an estimated billion extra people, mostly in the poorest countries, by the year 2040 will come down to a few choices, based on official US government forecasts. "Either we say we are going to eat less, which is not realistic, or we cut down rainforest on critical lands to expand production, or we boost productivity. "To me that is a very simple question. You go to where you can use the best technology to increase productivity -- and that is biotechnology."

The problem, he says, is that there is little room left to expand agriculture. Baize says the only options are clearing forests in countries like Brazil and Borneo. He says farming needs warm weather and water. "That is going to put you in the tropics and that will mean deforestation." The alternative is to increase yields, he says. "In corn or maize in the US, we are getting rapid increases in yield, but they are coming from biotech corn varieties which are stacked with different traits so they are resistant to the corn borer, the corn root worm, and they also are glyphosate-tolerant." Baize is based in Virginia in the US, where most of the corn, cotton and soybeans now grown are genetically modified.

He says the GM plants require minimal pesticide and less ploughing, which means less fuel is used. He says farmers have seen yields increase by 10 to 15 per cent, and have been quick to adopt GM crops. "Over 90 per cent of soybeans in the US are biotech, effectively 100 per cent of Argentina is biotech, probably 65 per cent of Brazil is, and it will go up to 90 per cent as fast as they can get there." Baize says crops genetically modified to tolerate drought would greatly increase productivity in dry parts of Australia.

While GM crops have been accepted in most of the Americas, it is a different story in Europe and Australia. In Australia, GM cotton is grown in NSW and Queensland. It has resulted in a reduction in herbicide and insecticide use of between 56 and 75 per cent. Both NSW and Victoria recently allowed the cultivation of GM canola. But GM crops are banned in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Baize, in Australia to address clients of Optimal Funds Management, notes there is "a scepticism over there (in Europe) about science and government. There are many similarities between biotechnology and nuclear power.

"Both of them, the lay person doesn't understand them. It is easy to sow doubts and fears in people." Baize argues that worrying about GM crops "is a luxury of certain people in wealthy countries. The people in poor countries are concerned about the volume of food they get: they want to be able to afford food." He says the sooner that Australia has a debate on GM, "to look at the facts rather than the emotion and the innuendo, the quicker Australia will move forward". Source: The Australian.

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