Tasmania's GMO ban under review as scientist urges change to 'feed more people'

Professor Sergey Shebala spends a lot of time thinking about how the world's growing population is going to be fed.

The award-winning University of Tasmania plant scientist's research is aimed at making crops more resilient to environmental stresses and pests, but he is feeling hamstrung without access to genetic modification.

"We have nearly exhausted all the possibilities to improve plant resilience to major stresses," he said.

"We need to feed more people every day. The United Nations estimates [the world will have] 9.6 billion people by 2050, so we need to increase crop production to feed them all, and it's not sustainable with existing agricultural practice."

Tasmania is the only state to have a blanket ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which has been in place since 2001 after genetically altered canola escaped from trial crops at secret sites around the state.

The Tasmanian Government is now reviewing its 18-year moratorium on GMOs, which ends in November, and is calling for public submissions​.

Professor Shebala said his application of GMO technology would speed up natural processes in plants, making them more resilient to climate change.

One project he is working on is modifying rice plants to grow more successfully in salt water, given many developing countries have a lack of fresh water.


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