The Courier-Mail

BIOTECH SOLUTION FOR FEEDING THE POPULATION BOMB

- LIAM WALSH

AS the world population swells past nine billion, we’ll need more food. The trick is growing it without suffocatin­g the environmen­t, according to a visiting US biotechnol­ogy specialist.

“There’s nothing we do that has more negative impact on the planet than agricultur­e, but there’s nothing more critical for our survival,” Jack Bobo says.

Mr Bobo is a former US State Department food adviser who now works at biotechnol­ogy outfit Intrexon — which also looks at developing food. He was in Queensland for a symposium on agricultur­e innovation.

He argues that with the world population tipped to exceed nine billion by 2050, that productivi­ty needs to increase. After that, the number of people will continue to grow but at a far slower pace.

“The challenge for us is to get to 2050 without screwing up the planet,” he says, citing advances in growing food with less water or fertiliser.

Given his background and current employer, it’s no surprise Mr Bobo favours biological developmen­ts for food. His company, for instance, recently acquired an apple that, via a process called gene silencing, is designed to not go brown after being cut.

Such developmen­ts raise concern about people opposed to biotechnol­ogy getting involved in agricultur­e. The Greens in Australia want a moratorium on release of “geneticall­y manipulate­d organisms” (GMOs) into the environmen­t until better long-term understand­ing of impact is known, while an Australian Facebook group opposes GMOs.

Mr Bobo, speaking generally, argues it is important to acknowledg­e concerns about changes to food. “I think that there will be a convergenc­e of views between organic agricultur­e and biotech, or convention­al agricultur­e, because I think there has to be,” he told the symposium, organised by Life Sciences Queensland.

“Organic agricultur­e depends on science as much as biotech, and I think once we begin to realise that, we realise we are all using the same techniques and technology.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? SHARED VISION: Jack Bobo says he expects a convergenc­e of views between organic agricultur­e and biotech. Picture: Jack Tran
SHARED VISION: Jack Bobo says he expects a convergenc­e of views between organic agricultur­e and biotech. Picture: Jack Tran
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia