2011 Festival of Ideas - The Genetic Revolution II: Food and Power

Does the genetic revolution open the way to feeding the world and providing it with safe, renewable sources of energy and power? Why does the public react against genetically modified food? Are genetically modified crops the only way forward for the world?

Some aspects of the Australian identity find their expression in controversial areas of science and technology. Our long history of agriculture over the vast Australian rural landscape, built on the efforts of fiercely independent farmers, has given many of us a sense of personal independence, a can-do and hard work ethic and a sophisticated understanding of the importance of innovation to our productive capacity. It has also given us a deep love of our natural environment. These identities now come in to conflict over the genetic revolution, where opinions range from an insistence that genetic modification of foods should be banned to arguments that the new technologies are guarantors of our future wellbeing. The choices we make not only reflect the struggle between these competing identities but may also in part define our future identity. In this discussion, we will hear from a group of eminent genetics researchers about the potential and limitations of the contribution that genetic modification can make and the role that Australian science researchers should play in meeting our future food and power needs.