Innovation in agriculture has led to fast food. it’s time to slow down

The Waite Research Institute was pleased to be working with the Cooperative Research Centres Association to present a debate in celebration of the Australian Year of the farmer as part of their Collaborate Innovate 2012 conference this week. The debate topic was:

“Innovation in agriculture has led to fast food. It’s time to slow down”

Innovation has always been part of Australian agriculture. From the ‘stump-jump’ plough to Federation wheat, our early agriculturalists adapted, invented and experimented with technology and techniques to create a national economy largely dependent on food and fibre production, one that “rode on the sheep’s back”. Newer developments such as minimum tillage, precision agriculture and the application of genetics and genomics to animal and plant breeding have enabled our agricultural sector to feed approximately 60 million people annually.

However, Australia is now a mostly urban society, increasingly disconnected from food production. Australians are amongst the most obese in the world and a recent survey showed that 45 per cent of school students could not identify that everyday lunchbox items such as a banana, bread and cheese originated from farms. Concern for the environment is leading some consumers to reject food produced using technology-based methods.

Is it time for a ‘back to basics’ approach to reconnect Australians with food production? Has technology led to industrial agriculture and cheap food that is not understood or valued by consumers?

Or is continued investment in innovation the only hope for Australian agriculture to remain internationally competitive and feed an increasing global population with minimal impact on the environment?

Team for the affirmative

Sophie Thomson, Gardening consultant

Dr Rosemary Stanton, Nutritionist

Andre Ursini, Chef

Team for the negative

Professor Rob Lewis, Research manager

Professor Mark Tester, Plant scientist

Philip Bruem AM, Farmer

Moderator

Dr Paul Willis, Director, Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus)

After an exciting and informative debate, the negative team where pronounced winners on the night!

To listen to the debate please click here (approx 58 minutes, 20 Mb, mp3 format)

To see how the debate looked on Twitter please click here .

The Waite Research Institute would like to thank all who contributed to making the event a success.

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