A major international conference on agricultural biotechnology starts in Melbourne, Australia, today (August 6, 2006).The Agricultural Biotech International Conference (ABIC) brings together representatives of biotech companies, agricultural researchers and policy makers from across the world.
The theme of this conference is Unlocking the Potential of Agricultural Biotechnology. Some of the topics to be discussed include:
* Importance of biotechnology in meeting global food requirements.
* Application of agricultural biotechnology in biomedicine.
* Commercialization of innovative biotechnology.
* Practical applications of genomics to cereal crops.
* Using biotechnology to protect and enhance food supply.
* Biotechnology in developing countries.
Unlocking the potential of agricultural biotechnology is an issue that has been with us since the commercialization of the first genetically modified crop a decade ago. Developed countries, notably the U.S. and Canada, appreciate that agricultural biotechnology has been a prime mover of their economies. They have massively invested in it, effectively eclipsing the so-called conventional agriculture. The gains have been innumerable.
Farmers in these countries have almost doubled their income from cultivating genetically modified crops, that are usually high yielding and pest resistant.
In developing countries, the picture is different. Agricultural biotechnology remains a contested issue. Many developing countries would not embrace because of their distrust for the developed countries. Others have been fed with lies that agricultural biotechnology, and in particular Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), pose danger to the environment and the health of consumers.
Positive attributes of agricultural biotechnology must be played out at the Melbourne meeting for all to listen.
It’s encouraging that delegates from developing countries such as Prof. Jennifer Thomson (South Africa), Dr. Jagadish Mittur (India), and Dr. Rangsun Parnpai (Thailand) are attending this conference. They have a chance to learn firsthand how agricultural biotechnology has revolutionized the economies of such countries as the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. These delegates must explore how their countries can similarly benefit from agricultural biotechnology.
Since this is a gathering of experts in agricultural biotechnology, it’s expected that there will a productive debate on the potential of agricultural biotechnology. Delegates should conduct their deliberations with developing countries in mind. It’s here where agricultural biotechnology is in dire need.
Developing countries delegates are encouraged to view this conference as a window of opportunity to learn from as many experts as possible on the potential of agricultural biotechnology.
Once the curtains of this conference fall, delegates from developing countries must ensure that they share the lessons learnt with policy makers, scientists and farmers in their respective countries.