Australian consumers support growing GM food production

The majority of Australian consumers believe the benefits of genetically engineered foods outweigh the dangers, with high acceptance if food quality was improved, according to a survey by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Currently Australia comprises less than one per cent of the worldwide total of area sown to genetically engineered crops. But the next 12 months will be critical for the uptake of new crops using gene technology.

“This (genetic engineering) technology is being adopted by farmers at a rate greater than any other technology in the history of agriculture,” said Director of the University of Adelaide’s Special Research Centre of Basic and Applied Plant Molecular Biology, Professor Peter Langridge.

Professor Langridge said the majority of future canola, cotton, lupin and pea crops would be genetically engineered so that they were insect or herbicide resistant.

CSIRO’s Division of Human Nutrition Principal Research Scientist, Dr Katrine Baghurst, says CSIRO research shows that Australians need more information about how gene technology is used in food. Dr Baghurst cited a CSIRO survey which showed the majority of consumers believed the benefits of genetically engineered foods outweighed the dangers, with high acceptance if food quality was improved. “Consumers are willing to try gene modified foods provided they can see some clear benefits,” she says.

Dr Geoffrey Annison, Scientific and Technical Director, Australian Food & Grocery Council told the politicians that, with appropriate regulatory framework in place, transgenic food had the potential to improve the nation’s health.

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