Australia has been experiencing immense food shortages over the decades and, this problem appears to challenge demographic transition of the Australian population. The problem of food shortage can be traced back to the mid 19the Century, especially in the post World War II when food was believed to be a rare commodity to the Australian soldiers. State Library of Victoria (2013) reports that, “Australians began to experience shortages of almost everything they needed in daily life. At the time of World War II, most of them drank tea, not coffee” (par. 3). This problem seems to have persisted over decades because; Australia has not established sustainable Agriculture for mass production of food for the Australian population. In the 1960’s, Australia relied solely on foodstuff imports from the Pacific countries but, its dependence on food imports have decreased significantly owing to the country’s effort to attain food sustainability through embarking on food security policies. Therefore, this essay will explain the issue of food shortages in the future and, how Australia can solve this problem by genetic modified food.
Currently, Australia imports 10 percent of its net food supply (Ludwig, 2011). This is attributable to increased food production from the Murray-Darling Basin, which serves as the principal food production region, in Australia (OECD, 2006). It covers four States, although it acreage is estimated to be that of Germany and France combined. Food production from the Murray-Darling Basin accounts for 41% of Australia’s food production (Marks, 2008). However, food production from the basin is usually interrupted by the perennial droughts. For instance, in 2008, Australia experienced an unprecedented threat of food shortage, owing to the drought episode in the region.
In the future, Australia may face an unprecedented food shortage owing to the increased food consumption and the recurrent droughts. Soil infertility and the continual climate variability may also cause challenges to food production in Australia; thus, there is need to adopt genetic engineering technologies to enhance crops sustainability (Gill & Tuteja, 2012).
Currently, Australia has recorded remarkable progress towards food security through reclaiming the world’s driest desert for Agricultural productivity. Some of Australia’s strengths, which seem to enable it to attain crops sustainability in the future, include the established links with developing countries in the region, especially with regard to delivering of technological developments to increase its capabilities and, extensive Agricultural research (Australian Government, 2011). In addition, Australia has established efficient climate change research to device ways of climate change impact and mitigation. Moreover, Australia has produced human health and nutrition research expertise, which enhances Australia’s capability of achieving food security in the future. Langridge (2010) remarks, “These strengths provide a solid foundation to catalyze transformation in the food value chain required to address food security issues” (p. 2).
Despite the outstanding strengths of Australia to address food shortages in the future, there is need for the adoption of the modern farming technology such as conservation farming and the adoption of genetic engineering technology. Genetic modified foods appear to address Australian food shortages in the future. The National Academy of Sciences (2005) states, “Feeding all of these people [global population] and eliminating hunger will require advances in food production and distribution that enhance food supplies without damaging the environment” (par. 1). This assertion was supported by the UK’s chief scientist who remarked that human survival in the future relies heavily on genetically modified crops (McKie, 2011). Moreover, the significance of genetically modified food in feeding increasing populations is reaffirmed by the Earth Open Source (2011) by stating that, “GM crops are promoted as a way of solving world hunger at a time when the population is expected to increase” (par. 1). Therefore Australia’s crop sustainability will be realized through the adoption of genetic modified food technology.
Currently, Australia’s Agricultural production is hindered by its reliance on traditional crops, which are susceptible to drought, insect damage and viral infections. Moreover, these crops are not tolerant towards certain some weeds, which suppress their growth, resulting to unreliable crop yields. Surprisingly, Genetic Modified Organism’s technology for food production is based on improving crop yields by enhancing the crop’s adaptability to adverse climatic conditions, pests and disease resistance. World Health Organization (2013) states, “All GM crops available on the international market today have been designed using one of three basic traits: resistance to insect damage; resistance to viral infections; and tolerance towards certain herbicides” (par. 10). Therefore, attaining crops sustainability, in Australia will require the use of genetic modified food crops, which poses drought, pests and disease tolerance capabilities.
In regard to drought tolerance, Australia’s Agricultural research should be aimed at modifying the indigenous crops to withstand drought. Water shortage is regarded to as one of the most challenging issues influencing Australia’s Agricultural output because; the largest percentage of Australia is covered by a desert. Ordinarily, some the indigenous food crops are known to possess significant drought resistant traits and, they are highly adaptable to their ecological habitats compared to exotic crops varieties (Persley & Serageldin, 2003). Therefore, efficient recombination of drought resistant indigenous and high-yielding exotic crop genomes will produce high-yielding drought resistant crops, which will enhance food crop diversity, in Australia. In addition, genetic recombinant crop technology will enable Australia to design genetically modified food crops, which mature fast to prevent prolonged exposure to adverse climatic conditions which affect food crop growth. Early maturing food crops are believed to escape diseases and pest destruction because: the life cycle of insect pests coincides with ecological situations.
On the other hand, genetic recombinant technology will enable Australia to design pest resistant food crops, especially through the use of endotoxins, which are produced by microorganisms. Currently, insect crop pests causes the highest crop damage both field and storage pests (Jiayang & Xu, 2007). The challenges of insect crop pests seems to have been worsened by the emergence of pesticide resistant pests, which has been occasioned by the prolonged use of certain pesticides leading to biological adaptation of the pests to the concerned pesticide. However, genetic engineering has offered a reliable solution to this challenge through the discovery of useful bacterial endotoxins, which occur naturally in the environment (). For instance, toxins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria are believed to kill insect pests in food crops (Cummins, 2004). Therefore, most crops can be modified to become insect resistant by incorporating BT genome insert into the plants’ genome (Friends of the Earth, 2003). Bt crops are currently gaining popularity owing to their resistance to insect pests, which are believed to be the most destructive crop pests. In 2003, BT crops accounted for 62 million Hectares of vegetation cover, globally (Cummins, 2004).
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- Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2017, Future impact of genetically modified food on crops sustainability in Australia, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/381028