Biotech #Foodheroes: Ian Godwin

Ian Godwin

Australian crop scientist Ian Godwin believes that genetically modified (GM) foods are “good enough to eat” and he’s passionate about reassuring the public that science backs him up.

Last year he even published a popular book on that topic — though in the title it was presented as a question, which he answered by serving up an easily digested explanation of the science behind agricultural biotechnology and a peek at what the future might hold.

But for Godwin, a professor in plant molecular genetics and director of the Centre for Crop Science at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, taste and safety are just two characters in the bigger GM sustainability story. GM crops are one way to ensure a happy ending.

 

“Very simply, the improved yields and reduced use of fertilizer and pesticide enabled by biotechnology can benefit people and the natural environment,” he says. “I live and work in Australia, where our greatest challenge has always been water. Climate change for Australian farmers is already leading to hotter, drier conditions, and more unpredictability, which is going to make producing enough quality food even harder.”

“Like all plant improvements, the seed is one of the most powerful ways to deliver technology. Plant biotechnology is part of that technological package. Delivering higher yields and better nutritional quality with less inputs is great when it comes to food security and sustainability.”

Godwin says he got “hooked” on biotechnology while working on a GM sugar beet project during his post-doctoral work in the United Kingdom. He later pioneered the use of biotechnology in sorghum, adding value to this important and versatile livestock feed crop by developing varieties with larger grains, higher protein content, and improved digestibility. He’s also investigating its use as a biofuel feedstock for arid environments.

He enjoys mentoring young scientists to help them achieve their full potential, while also advancing the next generation of GM crops. “Once all farmers have access, the benefits will be widely recognized,” he predicts.