The nation's leading scientists have started a publicity campaign to dispel what they say are unfounded fears over genetically modified foods.
The Australian Academy of Science in Canberra is to lobby politicians of all parties as parliament considers easing the law to allow more genetic modification. The scientists believe the changes opposed by the Greens are "small in scope, cautious and conservative".
And the Academy has produced a booklet for the general public answering common questions.
It comes as new research indicates widespread ignorance of GM (which is the altering of the genetic make-up of a plant or animal - canola which is used for vegetable oil can be modified, for example, so it can grow better in droughts.)
Knowledge about what foods in Australia were genetically modified is generally poor.Office of the Gene Technology Regulator
According to the government, three genetically modified crops are permitted in Australia - cotton, canola and safflower. GM carnations have also been approved to be grown or imported. Other crops are being tried out.
The scientists believe that GM will be necessary as the earth warms and growing conditions for essential crops get tougher.
According to the government's Gene Technology Regulator, "Knowledge about what foods in Australia were genetically modified is generally poor."
One plant scientist and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Dr TJ Higgins, said there was "much conflicting and inaccurate information" about genetic modification.
He said the opinion research indicated that "only 13 per cent of Australians said they supported GM foods" but half the population supported it if people could be sure that GM products were regulated and they knew that there were environmental or health benefits.
Another Fellow of the Academy of Science, Professor Marilyn Anderson, said, "The international scientific consensus is that after 20 years of commercial use, GM technologies used to date pose no greater risk to human health or the environment than similar products derived from traditional breeding and selection processes."
"Regulators are confident that the GM organisms and products approved so far are as safe as their conventional counterparts.
The research on public attitudes indicates that people in the ACT are less ignorant about the technology and more open to eating GM foods than people elsewhere.
According to the regulator, "the ACT had the highest levels of willingness to consume GM fruits and vegetables and willingness to consume processed food containing GM ingredients".