Genetically modified (GM) crops were not a threat to the environment or human health and had significant consumer benefits, a University of Queensland scientist told a conference here on Wednesday.GM crops were now grown in 12 countries on a total area of 40 million hectares, twice the area of Britain, Dr Jimmy Botella told the Australian Biotechnology Association 2000 conference.Threats of environmental disaster had not materialised, he said."Self-proclaimed ecologist groups proclaim that there is a possibility of long-term unforeseen consequences for human health but the fact remains that after 13 years of consuming GM food there hasn't been as much as a skin rash caused by this kind of food," Botella said.Data from large-scale commercial fields of GM plants clearly showed that there had been a dramatic decrease in the use of insecticides, herbicides and "other nasty chemicals", he said.Botella is the director of the University of Queensland's Plant Genetic Engineering Laboratory, which employs 20 scientists working on diverse aspects of plant biology and biotechnology.Its main interest is the improvement of fruits and vegetables including papaya, mango and broccoli by genetic engineering, the university said in a statement.Almost all plant varieties produced during the last centuries were the result of artificial genetic recombination, he said.