Genetically modified crop technology could ease GCC food security challenges

March 25, 2014 5:07 pm

Genetically Modified (GM) crops could be the answer to the unique challenges facing the food production sector in the arid Gulf region an expert has said today at the Agribusiness Outlook Forum, taking place alongside AGRA Middle East at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Dr. Sami Alawad, Researcher for the Agriculture and Policy Section at Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), said that GM technology is a fast and promising approach to solve several problems that plague the regional agriculture sector.

“In producing crops in a water-scarce region with a growing population, the challenge we face is identifying, characterising, and introducing genes that code drought tolerance or resistance to salinity in plants,” said Alawad

“GM technology is the most precise and quick method compared to the conventional selection method of breeding plant traits that address these challenges.”

Alawad added that the biggest challenges to utilising GM technology in the GCC are those related to consumer concerns due to ethical and religious reasons – something he believes can be addressed with a transparent debate involving all stakeholders.

“The ethical and religious issues linked to GM technology relate to the source of the introduced gene in plants,” he said. “There needs to be public debate that involves the government, consumers, media and experts that includes the assurance of safety to people and the environment. Involving religious scholars to reflect their views on the matter can also minimise concerns.”

Focusing on key issues surrounding the mounting food import across the GCC, the Agribusiness Outlook Forum features successful international and regional case studies at the forefront of Agricultural innovation.

Other speakers include Dr. Rami Hamad, Farm Manager at Al Rawabi UAE; Tashi Dawa, Ecological Designer at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia; Syed Tairiq Husain, CEO of Emirates Investment Group UAE; and Dr Mohammed Al-Oun, Organic Farming Expert at the UAE Ministry of Environment.

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