GM and organic crops need not be separate in food debate to achieve best outcome in feeding world’s hungry

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Given its centrality to our existence and lifestyle, it is unsurprising that the different ways in which food can be grown, the comparative benefits of using only naturally-occurring fertiliser and pesticides (organic farming), the impact of synthetic pesticides, and the development of genetically modified (GM) crops cause ongoing community debate about what we eat and how it’s grown, now and in the future.

Dr David Tribe is a microbiologist and food scientist from the University’s Melbourne School of Land and Environment. He says debate over whether organically or conventionally grown food is better, and the idea that GM and organics are opposed – that one must prevail to feed us in the future – is muddying the conversation about the way forward and in some cases, is actually preventing food safety messages from reaching the public.

“It’s about how we can make food production better, how can we make food and food choices better. Both ways of approaching it have a role in that.

“GMOs [genetically modified organisms] sometimes help do that, and the ideas behind organic farming sometimes help do that. We need to concentrate on how to make farming work better in terms of the environment and the livelihoods of farmers, and how to offer people better food choices.

“Scientists are solely concerned with discovering how to achieve the best outcome. We can take the best of these two different worlds. They needn’t be separate.”

This ongoing debate continues as we draw closer to a time when we will have bigger issues than how our food is grown: without action, food security will increasingly become an issue across the world due to population growth and climate change.

Dr Tribe says it is not that Australians will face famine, but rather some food will be very expensive and overseas, poor people will suffer, especially in the cities. “People in developing countries will face price shocks, such as when prices rose suddenly in 2008, causing riots around the world,” he says. “Australians only spend a fraction of their income on food. Poor people in the developing world spend a much larger portion of their income on it.”

Read the full, original article: The great food debate

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