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Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference brings world’s leading scientists to Cork

A major international conference on agricultural biotechnology attended by over 450 delegates took place at University College Cork, Ireland, on 24 August to 27 August. Billy Kelleher, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, performed the official opening of ABIC 2008.

Having this conference in Ireland, hosted by primary sponsor Teagasc, provides an opportunity for Ireland’s best and brightest researchers, academics, and industry personnel to deepen their understanding of the most recent developments in the agri-biotechnology sector from the global leaders in the field.

With biotechnology already integrated into all aspects of agriculture, food safety, dairy science, marine, bioenergy, crop and animal science around the world, developing the understanding and knowledge of Ireland’s participants in the sector will better position Ireland to assess and evaluate the positive contributions that biotechnology can make.

Prof Jimmy Burke, from Teagasc, Chairman of the ABIC 08 conference told the opening session that “Biotechnology has revolutionised 21st Century agriculture and food production systems worldwide in a way not foreseen a mere 30 years ago. Various national reports have rightly identified biotechnology as one of the core technologies which Ireland and Irish industry must now embrace.’’

“The science of biotechnology is good for society and the agricultural industry and we should take confidence from the fact that public health is protected by a very rigorous approval system,” he said. “We now know from 30 years of international research and development that modern plants and food produced using biotechnology are safe,” he concluded.

Professor Patrick Fitzpatrick, Head of College of Science, Engineering & Food Science in UCC said, “The conference is timely bringing together a distinguished array of world leaders from leading public and private sector institutions to discuss agricultural biotechnology and its impacts on global food, feed, fibre and fuel production. The theme of the conference, ”Agricultural Biotechnology for a Competitive and Sustainable Future” will deal with a broad range of urgent research and development priorities, from meeting the growing demand for food and feed production, to the development of sustainable biofuels.”

Dr Charles Spillane, ABIC 2008 Programme Committee Chair and local UCC organiser stated that “Internationally , a biotechnology revolution is currently sweeping through the agri-food research sector, impacting on the food, feed, fuel, fibre, animal, fish, nutrition and pharmaceutical sectors. A key issue is that global food production needs to double by 2050. By 2020 we will need to produce 36% more food with less water, less fertiliser, less chemicals, not much more land and more extreme weather patterns, we are not on target, and will need to harness every available technology, including GM and other biotechnologies, if we are to even approach such food production targets.“

Professor Burke furthermore said, “Foods containing genetically modified ingredients are already on our supermarket shelves, and livestock here are being fed genetically modified feeds. New technology that imparts resistance to herbicides and insect attack, are providing cost and yield improvement for farmers around the world, and giving a competitive advantage to those using this technology.’’

Prof Burke went on to say “Irish cereal farmers are the most productive in the world, partly because they have access to excellent varieties of wheat, produced by classical plant breeders and if they are to hold on to this record farmers and the industry generally must be able to use the most appropriate and competitive technology in the future. In this regard new biotechnological techniques such as marker assisted selection are already making a difference.”

Eric Donald | alfa
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