This call for farmers not to trust scientists with a vested interested in GM, like Jim Peacock of CSIRO, is exactly right.
CSIRO is supposed to be a public science institute, protecting public interests and providing expert advice to government, but it derives 30-40% of its funding from the private sector. On the day of the announcement of Australia's commercial approval for Bayer's GM canola (oilseed rape), CSIRO announced that Bayer would be extending its lucrative investment in CSIRO "to develop modern biotechnology tools applicable to cotton and other crops". The press release said, "For Bayer CropScience, the alliance with CSIRO is regarded as a model for global cooperation"!!!
It is a model of everything that's wrong in the relationship between public science and private interests. An article in the journal Australasian Science written by a former CSIRO senior executive accused the head of CSIRO of subverting the CSIRO's traditional roleof public research in favour of lucrative consulting work for government and the private sector. Research into GM crops, with its promise of intellectual property and revenue streams, is 'in' at the CSIRO, he reported; research into organic farming is 'out'. He described morale among staff as at rock bottom.
Farmers critical of scientist
Press release: for immediate release
In response to the pro-GM statements made by Australian Academy of Science president, Dr Jim Peacock during a televised address at the Press club, the Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) are asking farmers not to trust scientists that have a vested interest.
"It is rubbish to say that GM crops are going to feed the world when non-GM varieties appear to be yielding more," said Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers.
"Over 90% of the worlds crop is non-GM despite the huge push for these patented GM crops over the last decade. The truth is being modified more than the genetics and farmers aren't gullible enough to be conned for long."
"The last people farmers should be listening to for direction and advise is the scientists and industry players that have a vested interest in this patented product. We need to listen to our marketers who clearly state the advantage of being GM-free."
The NCF claim Mr Peacock should have revealed the financial ties that scientific sectors such as CSIRO have with companies such as Monsanto. Mr Peacock stated in his address the science sector had failed to win public support for transgenic crops. Mrs Newman explained that a major reason for failing to gain support from farmers is because the reluctant public buy farmers products, the sums don't add up to a profit and the costs are too high on those that do not want to adopt GM crops.
"Farmers need to be aware that the real yields fall well short of what has been promised and this has been proven by independent trials. We should be very suspicious that further independent trials have been rejected by the GM companies until there is an unhindered clear pathway for commercialisation. It is obvious they don't want us to know the truth until it is to late to salvage our GM-free status."
The NCF claim there is some support for GM but it is based on farmers being frightened of the future and want to urge farmers to base decisions on facts, not unsubstantiated claims.
The NCF believe that GM may soon be an outdated technology superseded by better non-GM biotechnology advances. Mrs Newman gave an example of non-GM biotechnology techniques capable of short-cutting the breeding processes by crossing arctic grasses with cereal crops for frost tolerance. The NCF believe that because scientists will financially benefit more from GM technology, they are reluctant to explain these better non-GM alternatives.
"If GM is released commercially, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to market as GM-free so we need to listen very carefully to our markets. It is clear that market rejection is worsening and we need to be extremely cautious to ensure we have risk management to prevent non-GM farmers being affected."
Mrs Newman explained that consumers prefer a non-GM product and non-GM farmers were expected to be liable for testing costs, duplicate storage and handling and trying to keep GM out of their product. If segregation failed, non-GM farmers were to be liable for the cost difference if the product is downgraded to GM or for economic loss experienced if the product can not be sold. The NCF believe it will not be possible to control contamination to satisfy market and legal demands.
"Those pushing GM crops must realise that non-GM farmers will not accept any contamination if we are expected to be liable for the economic loss caused by it," insisted Mrs Newman.
"A strict liability regime is essential to ensure the polluter pays, not the polluted."
Contact: Julie Newman 08 98711562 or 08 98711644
Related stories: GMOs
The Canberra Times - Growers urged to back GM canola - Australian Academy of Science president Dr Jim Peacock has urged Australia's canola growing industry to follow the cotton industry's example to gain approval for commercial plantings of genetically modified crops. Addressing a National Press Club audience yesterday, Dr Peacock said that transgenic cotton had boosted yields, quality and profits while dramatically reducing the use of pesticides and other chemicals. ''The environment has benefited enormously and farmers and farm workers have a better quality of life,'' he said.
He said the canola industry should become ''intimately involved'' in trying to overturn moratoriums imposed by the states and territories on commercial plantings of transgenic canola. ''It is not a question for individual farmers to decide or even small groups of farmers, it needs to be an industry decision,'' Dr Peacock said. The former head of CSIRO Plant Industry, which leads Australia's research effort into developing transgenic crops, said that moves by the states to ban commercial plantings of transgenic canola were not based on scientific evidence.
''The major premises on which the moratoria were based are without foundation,'' he said. The ultimate decision-makers were persuaded very successfully by negatively directed groups like the Network of Concerned Farmers. ''I don't think there is any doubt that the majority of farmers in the country would have voted whole- heartedly for the introduction of transgenic canola.''
''Dr Peacock said it was 'a little futile' for Australia to invest in research to develop transgenic crops but fail to allow the outcomes of that research to be delivered. The science sector had failed to win public support for transgenic crops. ''Scientists really didn't cope with the situation, so the technology got ahead of the communication game,'' he said.
''It's really hard to make up and there is no simple way of doing it.'' Dr Peacock also criticised the Federal Government's decision not to appoint a full-time chief scientist to replace Dr Robin Batterham whose term of office ended on May 31. ''The academy did put an opinion to the Government that we needed a full-time chief scientist,'' Dr Peacock said.
Advertisements for the position appeared last week, indicating it might be several months before a new appointee would take up the position. A spokesman for the Minister for Education, Science and Training Dr Brendan Nelson, said the chief scientist position would remain a part-time position to allow the successful applicant to maintain significant links with industry and the science sector. He said the process to select Dr
Batterham's successor would begin ''as soon as practicable'' and anannouncement would be made "in the near future''.