Plant breeding technologies could help solve world food supply issues

27 Jul, 2005 08:45 PM
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IT could take four to five years for GM technology and breeding programs to catch up once the state moratoriums are lifted.

Leading biotechnology expert David Hudson made the statement at last weekís Grains West Expo.

Mr Hudsonís company SGA Solutions is a specialist biotechnology consulting firm providing advice to government, industry and farmers. Mr Hudson has more than 25 years experience in agriculture, more than 10 years in the biotechnology arena, 23 years with Monsanto as new technology and seed manager.

Mr Hudson said it was difficult to say how long it would take GM plant varieties to be marketable once the state moratoriums were lifted.

ìIf there is a will to move forward with GM technology and a clear path to market with political and grower will, then to get it going is probably going to take four to five years,î he said.

ìThe greater impact of the moratoriums is that they have led to a lack of desire to invest in biotechnology.

ìThere is a real confidence issue from the industryís point of view and we need a whole of industry approach to solve the impasse on GM issues.î

Mr Hudson also said plant breeding technologies will be instrumental in solving world food supply issues in the future.

He said conventional and GM biotechnology definitely had a role to play in solving world food demand.

ìNothing alone will be the panacea to food supply problems,î Mr Hudson said.

ìRather we should look at all the technologies available and use our common sense,î he said.

Mr Hudson said breeding was about knowing what traits you wanted and where they could come from.

ìNew varieties are continually evolving driven by the challenges of new disease pressures, market demands and changing conditions,î he said.

ìBreeders always have to look ahead to make sure the technology they are developing now will still be current when the plants are ready for market.î

Plant breeding would focus on four key products: food, fibre, feed and energy.

Food for a growing world population, fibre due to increased demand for consistency of supply, feeds to satisfy demand for different varieties and energy from plants such as biofuels.

ìWhat breeders want are plant varieties that minimise production limiting factors,î Mr Hudson said.

ìThere is a plant breeding tool box to use that involves genomics, crop analytics, biotechnology, molecular breeding and DNA markers and conventional breeding techniques.

ìToday most breeders accept all of these tools as a way to get the best results.î

Mr Hudson said as Australian agriculture looks to remain globally competitive it had to find ways to differentiate itself; whether that be by identifying new market niches, developing new products for efficiency or using new technologies (such as genetic engineering) to create technology that provides those efficiencies.

ìThe power of genomics is the DNA markers allow us to screen more plants earlier on in the process,î he said.

ìPlant breeding is all about numbers Ö the more plants we screen at an early stage the more likely and the sooner it is weíll get a result.

ìIt is targeted breeding that captures the best possible plant selections to move forward with.î

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