EXTRACTS: 'The stake VFF heavyweights have in new GM technologies is particularly interesting given the apparent influence the federation wields over policy and management of the issue. Company searches reveal that like McGauchie, Hards - who is also a representative on the federation's general council and on the Grains Council of Australia - also has directorship links to companies that could profit from GM.'
'But as Australia's chief scientist, the Howard government last year chose Dr Jim Peacock... Dr Peacock has founded the gene shears company Graingene Initiative, HRZ wheat consortium and a CSIRO partnered and patented GM cotton strain, genetically engineered to resist insects, regarded as his greatest triumph.'
Stocker undertook to approach David Penington, Mitchell to approach Gus Nossal and within something less than five minutes, the proposed company had four enthusiastic, potential partners/principals!
The drive behind GM Crops
by Julie Newman, 29 November 2007
It is of concern that farmers and consumers are not being told the truth about genetically modified crops but are being told whatever is needed to gain support by organisations that are normally trusted. The following report is a summary of the lies, corruption and vested interest behind this controversial technology.
Historically, the bulk of research and development of crops was undertaken by governments as a 'public good' service. Varieties were freely traded and the key reward for scientists was public acclaim through peer reviewed papers.
The UPOV '91 International Treaty was introduced to encourage investors to plant breeding by introducing a plant breeder right over newly produced varieties. A royalty was to be paid back to breeders but farmers did not lose the right to replant their own seed.
Living organisms have historically been excluded from patent laws as life forms were considered natural, not man-made. In 1980 a Supreme Court case Diamond v Chakrabarty narrowly decided that a strain of bacteria that had been modified to insert genes was patentable. In 1988, a Harvard University biologist was granted a patent for a mouse used for cancer research and it became the first animal to be considered an invention by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Corporate patent attorneys lobbied the Patent office that these 'products of nature' are patentable once they have been isolated to produce a form not found outside of a laboratory. This triggered a global gold rush for entrepreneurial scientists to apply for patents in order to claim exclusive rights to research and profits from thousands of different gene sequences. Interest has been sparked to patent genes from around the globe but international unity was required to recognise the patents.
International adoption of patented genetically modified crops was promoted by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based on the 'common good' principles of the 'Life science concept' and the regulatory systems were to be 'science based'. International farming organisations signed a similar agreement to promote biotechnology and GM technology through the Cairns group.
Two GM traits were commercially released, herbicide tolerance (the crop is resistant to a specific chemical owned by the same company) and Bt (the plant produces its own Bt insecticide to kill bollworm and budworm). Despite numerous promises of new opportunities, after 13 years since commercial adoption of GM crops, the commercial varieties are still limited to the same two traits. Herbicide tolerance accounts for 68% of commercial varieties, Bt 19% and both traits 13%.
The GM industry recognised the shortfalls of GM crops in delivering the promised traits.
'In 1995 the private sector viewed crop biotechnology, prior to the commercialization of the first GM crops in 1996, as an important new opportunity for markets that would contribute to lowering crop production costs, increasing productivity, provide a safer environment and a more sustainable system for ensuring global food, feed and fiber security. Later in the 1990's the private sector judged the life science concept to be an inappropriate strategy for the future. There followed a series of spin-offs and mergers culminating in consolidation that resulted in six transnational North American and European based crop protection/biotechnology entities.' ISAAA 'Global Review of Commercialized Trangenic Crops: 2001' section 5, page 22. 'Global R&D expenditures in Crop Biotechnology and future GM crop markets.'
The drive for GM crops was redirected at forming alliances with plant breeding institutes rather than producing beneficial 'life science' traits but no acknowledgement of the change of stategy was noted by WTO, OECD or the Cairns group.
Genetically modified crops were unique as it allowed the patent of a crop where the introduction of a single gene to an existing variety gave ownership of the crop and its progeny. Farmers were denied the right to save their own seed and paid a 'user fee' to use the patented variety. Monsanto was a key investor in GM crops with the introduction of their Roundup Ready gene. The patent rights have been rigorously pursued and farmers have been sued for possessing GM genes either intentionally or unintentionally. A legal defence by Percy Schmeisser (Canadian farmer) challenged this assumption and the Supreme court ruled that the GM patent only covered the gene and if the trait (ie resistance to glyphosate) was not used, the patent was not enforceable.
Since adoption of GM crops, there has been an escalating consumer rejection of the products causing serious market issues for farmers. Farmers wishing to market as non-GM faced the responsibility of trying to keep GM crops from contaminating their non-GM crops. This problem was exacerbated with the contamination of non-GM seed stocks. All farmers marketed as GM unless special steps were taken.
US, the largest GM crop nation pays massive subsidies to farmers to counter higher costs and lower commodity prices. 80% of these subsidies are allocated to soy, cotton and corn (their GM crops). After Canada adopted GM crops, their net farm income plummetted to well below zero. After 7,000 farmers marched in the streets demanding subsidies (with particular reference to canola farmers plight) subsidies were increased to a massive Can $4.9billion. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay do not recognise the GM patent and have mainly benefited by the introduction of infrastructure to handle bulk GM soy. The remaining countries growing GM crops are limited to cotton. This is a clear indication that farmers can not manage to pay the additional costs involved for the introduction of a GM food crop.
Currently, the patented technology is limited to crops used for fuel/oil (soy, corn, cotton and canola) but there is a major drive to introduce this patented technology to all food crops. The degree of control the owner of the patented gene owns is dependent on the contractual agreements covering the seed for one year. As choice is removed, contracts could become more demanding to lock farmers into becoming contract growers for a particular supply chain. In order to retain choice, farmers must retain the rights to replant our own seed rather than allow the seed supply sector to dictate the varieties released.
With international pressure, a joint State-Commonweatlth Regulatory System was agreed by the Council of Australian Governments. The Australian Federal Government signed a biotechnology strategy in 2000 promising a path to market for GM crops.
In response, All public service employees are bound by the Australian Public Service values including the requirement to be: 'responsive to the Government ...in implementing the Government's policies and programs'
What followed was a series of pro-GM information released by governments and any institute funded by government.
Federal Minister for Agriculture supported GM crops publicly 'Mr McGauran said moratoriums in many states prevented farmers from growing certain GM crops. This was having a significant impact on research and development, not only on GM technology, but also agricultural biotechnology'. http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=2412
ABARE in particular pushed a positive GM spin. 'Richard Denniss, economist and deputy director of the Australia Institute, suggests ABARE's assumptions on consumer take-up of GM foods 'reads more like a wish-list than an assessment of the state of play'. http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=2484
Norton Report: http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=242
It was not difficult to find serious faults in the economic reports presented by the research and government sectors. NCF commissioned an economic report to reveal the inaccuracies in the economic reports. http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=455The critique revealed that the authors had relied on unsubstantiated data of benefits, ignored a wide range of likely costs, and presumed that current consumer rejection will be replaced with consumer acceptance. It also pointed out that non-GM canola farmers will be expected to subsidise the introduction of a GM canola industry, yet this had not been accepted by non-GM growers.
After motions I had passed by WAFarmers was endorsed by Senate (by Senator Cherry) there was an attempt to reverse these by the Minister for Agriculture and the President of WAFarmers Federation). Risk management was proposed as a result.
Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 'Biotechnology Strategy for Agriculture, Food and Fibre. ' August 2003.Appendix 1 Context. 1. Government Approach to Biotechnology in Agriculture, Food and Fibre. http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/biotechnology/daff/bsaff 'The Commonwealth Government's approach to biotechnology in the agriculture, food and fibre sectors can be broadly summarised as follows':... . 'Considering the application of biotechnology in the agriculture, food and fibre industries should not jeopardise market opportunities or impose unreasonable costs on existing producers.'
Included in Appendices:(PIMC=The Primary Industries Ministerial Council and is the state Ministers and Federal Minister of Agriculture.) 'PIMC recognises the need for commercial flexibility to meet market demands. In May 2002 it determined that industry should self-regulate risks posed by gene technology to agricultural production supplemented by government monitoring. The Commonwealth maintains this position.'
It appeared that the GM industry were to regulate the release conditions of their own GM crops. Non-GM growers were excluded from the Gene Technology Grains Committee preparation of coexistence plans and when I attended the endorsement meeting to ensure our WAFarmers delegates complied with policy, I was asked to leave.
All government funded organisations became committed to uphold the policy to provide a 'path to market' for GM crops under industry self-management.
'The Australia Institute's survey of 290 NGOs suggests the PRIA event is part of a wider campaign to silence dissent. Seventy-four per cent of NGO respondents believe they are being pressured to make their public statements conform with government policy. Ninety-two per cent said they disagree with the view that dissenting voices are valued by government as part of a robust democracy. Ninety per cent believe that dissenting organisations risk having their funding cut. 'You toe the line or you risk getting defunded,' one respondent said. Another said: 'It is clear from our funding contract with Government that it sees our role not as a peak body in a democratic society but as a mechanism to help the Government 'get its message out' and help the Government implement its policy objectives.' Katherine Wilson. Overland 183, pp.13 17 http://www.overlandexpress.org/183_wilson.html
Farmers and consumers were faced with a barrage of misleading information from sources that are usually trusted. Organisations such as Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) were dependent on government funding and adopted the principle of providing a path to market as a key objective. GRDC funded $100,000/year to fund Agrifood Awareness to provide policy advise to farm lobby groups but Agrifood Awareness represents the chemical companies that owned the patents of GM crops (Monsanto and Bayer Cropscience). GRDC also provides funding for both state and national farm organisations. Pro-GM policies were promoted by the National Farmers Federation (NFF signed the International Cairns Group agreement) and the Grains Council of Australia (GCA) and their submissions ignored the cautious policies of the member states.
My personal experience in Grains Council of Australia (as WA's seed subcommittee delegate and a brief time on policy council) confirmed the underhanded tactics used to silence opposition against GM. Presentations claiming 'unanimous' support ignored my vote opposing accepting a GM tolerance level in seed stocks. Deliberate attempts to publicly humiliate me included a statement at the well-attended National Grains Week conference 'Not you Julie, anybody but Julie Newman can ask a question'. At the time, I was vice president of WAFarmers grains council.
I was threatened with legal action when I publicly commented that GCA acted against the policies of the organisations they represent.
Individuals within GCA were extremely pushy in promoting GM crops. The CEO of GCA held a previous pro-GM position in Agribusiness and enthusiastically promoted the profitability of developing intellectual property over GM and being the 'first to market' GM.
'Australia could”¦ expand its current links with global biotech leaders, become more active in jointly funded research, develop institutions for experimentation into agri-biotechnology and take a lead in commercialisation of second and subsequent waves of agri-biotchnology.' Agribusiness Perspectives Paper 54 by David Ginns 2002.
The previous Chairman of Grains Council of Australia, Keith Perrit has recently accepted a lucrative position as chairman of GRDC.
The GCA representatives pushed a pro-GM agenda within State farming organisations. WAFarmers GCA delegate and Grains Council President, Peter Wahlsten, continually tried to promote pro-GM motions and caused an outcry when minutes were manipulated to incorrectly claim that the failed motions supporting GM had actually been approved and well supported motions supporting risk management strategies had failed. I sent a copy of passed motions to Senate detailing the risk management required and subsequently Senate endorsed the motions. WAFarmers President Colin Nichol, wrote to the Minister for Agriculture, Warren Truss claiming that these motions were policy but not really policy and Mr Truss tried to reverse these motions. This caused conflict at the Annual General Meeting where the President of the organisation claimed WAFarmers was being publicly humiliated and, although originally denied, due to public pressure, I was given a right to explain what had happened. All GMO issues were transferred away from Grains Council (where I had a position) and into General Council.
Individuals that were outspoken against GM were pressured by colleagues and their organisations. CSIRO scientist Maartin Stapper was sacked for repeatedly speaking up against GM crops in his own time.
Monsanto donated funding of approx. $5million to major universities to establish biotechnology laboratories. Monsanto owned many of the patents and intellectual property of biotechnology techniques and collaborated with institutes such as CSIRO to enable them to use their technology free of charge in exchange for confidential alliance arrangements. The Federal government withdrew from funding pre-breeding at universities and this was taken over by GRDC (mainly funded by farmers).
The Federal government was responsible for assessing health and the environment but the assessment and submission-based exercise appeared little more than a public relations exercise. The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator claimed that GM canola was 'safe' for consumption after 'rigorous testing', however, the OGTR does no health testing and rely on Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) for the health testing. FSANZ does no testing and relies on the GM industry to provide their own data on safety testing. The GM industry does no testing on the oil which is the food consumers eat from canola production. They do however do testing on the meal which is used for stock feed but FSANZ has no authority over feed, only food. In effect, the GM industry has self-regulated health testing to exclude health testing.
Due to National Competition Policy requirements and legislative changes to intellectual property, State governments have altered their research priorities from 'common good' to profit-driven. Alliances and mergers are paramount to research and development but those investing in the technologies are very profit driven.
As States had authority over land use, States had the ability to impose moratoria based on market issues. As there was serious unresolved issues surrounding markets, segregation and economics, canola growing states imposed a blanket moratoria as soon as the Federal OGTR approved GM canola in 2003.
Those supporting the GM industry were outraged and soon after, a far more aggressive campaign was launched to promote GM and to gain industry acceptance. Misleading information regarding GM canola (only modified to be resistant to a different chemical than non-GM chemical resistant canola) claiming improved yields and drought tolerance was promoted more aggressively.
Numerous government reports have been released promoting benefits that were not there and ignoring problems associated with GM crops. The recently released GRDC 'industry' coexistence report failed to provide a path to market for non-GM crops. I contacted the chairman prior to its release asking why non-GM farmers have been deliberately excluded by the committee and was advised that our views were represented by ex Monsanto manager, David Hudson. http://farmacule.com/our_people/david_hudson/ . I was recently contacted by Mr Hudson claiming that although he was the consultant, he did not represent our views and therefore, nobody was representing the views of non-GM farmers.
The canola industry representation was often provided by the Oilseed Federation, its membership consisting of beneficiaries of GM crops. http://www.australianoilseeds.com/about_aof/our_members
Monsanto pulled out from Australia when the moratoria was announced. Ausbiotech released a paper 'The impacts of state-based moratoriums on investment, innovation and Australia’s future in biotechnology' in 2004 detailing the importance of investment to the research sector. The market capitalisation of Ausbiotech firms listed on the Australian Stock Exchange was $7.132billion and $968million was spent on biotech research by public and not for profit organisations. Ausbiotech stated that the moratoria resulted in an end to 'collaboration between Monsanto’s scientists and the Department of Primary Industries.'
Monsanto sold the rights to Roundup Ready canola to Nufarm, the sole Australian distributor of Monsanto’s Roundup chemical. Nufarm and Graincorp have an alliance company Nugrain http://www.seedquest.com/News/releases/oceania/Nugrain/n2189.htm
Many of the Graincorp directors are also directors of the Grain Growers Association, a farm organisation pushing GM. Director David Trebeck is a director of the Institute of Public Affairs (funded by companies such as Monsanto to counter anti-GM activism) and the former managing director of ACIL Consulting (a consulting company regularly engaged to provide government reports.)
The Victorian Farmers Federation is particularly pro-GM and their interests have been exposed in media.
'What really stunned Chambers was the tongue-lashing she got from some of the federation heavyweights as she and her mother-in-law joined the other protester with placards. She recalls in particular the response of former president Don McGauchie. 'He came out and had a go at my mother-in-law saying we didn't know what we were talking about and that people like us did more harm than good.'
'Searches of documents from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission indicate that McGauchie's anger might have had as much to do with agribusiness as it did with agriscience and agripolitics. A director of blue chip companies such as Telstra and National Foods, he shares with other VFF luminaries links to a variety of organisations with financial interests in the introduction of GM crops. '
'The stake VFF heavyweights have in new GM technologies is particularly interesting given the apparent influence the federation wields over policy and management of the issue. Company searches reveal that like McGauchie, Hards - who is also a representative on the federation's general council and on the Grains Council of Australia - also has directorship links to companies that could profit from GM. The trail, though, is long and complex. Among his interests disclosed to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission is a directorship of the VFF Property Trust, which with nearly 500,000 shares is in the top 20 shareholders of the bulk grains handler GrainCorp. This Sydney-based company, another conference sponsor, is the dominant grain handler in Victoria and NSW and is engaged in merger talks with Grainco, controller of the Queensland market. Other shareholders in GrainCorp include private investors and the clients of merchant banks.
GrainCorp directors include McGauchie and former VFF grains president, Kerang farmer Allan McCallum.
A spokesman for Monsanto, Mark Buckingham, has confirmed to The Age that GrainCorp was one of the companies his organisation was negotiating with to be the handler of segregated GM canola after a licence was granted.'
GrainCorp is also a partner in a recently established company called Nugrain, set up specifically with an eye to GM. Its principal task is to develop systems to handle a post-GM segregated grains industry which needs clear separation of conventional and modified material.
The main shareholder in Nugrain - with half its shares - is the agrichemical company Nufarm, which now manufactures under licence Monsanto's agricultural herbicide Roundup - a crucial component in the procedure for using Monsanto's genetically modified canola.
On the board of Nugrain are a whole string of other VFF luminaries, many of whom were also at the Mildura conference. They include GrainCorp director McCallum, managing director of GrainCorp Tom Keene and, as an alternate director, another GrainCorp director Ron Greentree.'
Geoff Strong, The Age, April 2003 http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/04/04/1048962934158.html
Similar pressure was exerted by other farm lobby groups, particularly from the President and Policy advisors of each organisation. The first I realised the policy advisor and President were not following policy was when I followed the WAFarmers presentation to WA parliament. I made a statement reminding government that WAFarmers had not followed policy.
I attended the annual GM policy day of WAFarmers almost every year and constantly countered the misleading pro-GM propaganda. I missed one year when I was advised of the date and arrived after a 420km drive to find they had rescheduled the session to the night before to exclude my participation. Luckily the resultant policy had support to retain caution until earlier this year when WAFarmers adopted an unconditional pro-GM policy (excluded risk management). I was unconstitutionally sacked as Senior Vice President of WAFarmers Grains Council only two weeks before policy day for supposedly breeching media policy when I had written evidence to prove I had followed policy to the letter. Although the motion of no confidence stating I was guilty was via email and not constitutional, I had no right of reply and there was no recourse.
New South Wales Farmers Federation is currently having serious debate to recall submissions with members claiming legal advise has shown the unconditional supportive GM policy is unconstitutional as it has ignored the risk management previously adopted as a requirement to be addressed prior to release. 'The Land' 8.11.07 . The NSW Farmers Federation Biotechnology committee is primarily made up of the biotech industry but there have been no meetings since the Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) member, Arthur Bowman joined. Neither Mr Bowman or exectutive council were given the submission to State government for comment prior to release. Interestingly, the NSW Farmers Federation has recently had approval for a million dollar grant from Federal government to research 'woody weeds' which has raised questions regarding possible links to policy change.
Hugh Roberts is the main promoter of GM technology within NSW Farmers. The NSW Farmers Federation lobbied the NSW Minister for Agriculture to remove NCF representative Juliet McFarlane, from the Ministers advisory committee. Juliet McFarlane is the only canola grower on this committee and, as a NCF member was stipulated in the legislation of the committee makeup, retained her seat.
Despite this, moratoria were imposed in each canola growing state.
In April, 2004, A BioScience Guest Editorial lamented the failed PR campaign.
'The biotech industry followed a traditional, command-and-control, centralized PR approach. Opinion leaders were targeted and brought onside. Significant stakeholder organizations and spokesmen were made available to the media. Great efforts were made to enhance understanding of the science and technology of biotechnology. Specialists were appointed to deal with specific issues. Scientists and academics brought authority and credibility to the industryË†s position. The biotechnology focused on explaining its position and its technology.' A far more aggressive approach was recommended. http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=1219
After the moratoria were imposed, the Institute of Public Affairs funded a pro-GM anti-activist activist to promote a ruthless campaign against those opposing GM technologies. Ross Irvine, (www.epublicrelations.can) a public relations advisor for the GM industry visited Australia in April 2005 to promote unity for a more active campaign supporting GM crops.
'Controversial or not, Irvine had pulling power. Filing in to see him was a Who's Who of powerful industry and government flacks. David Gazard was there. He's adviser to the Federal Treasurer [Australia's finance minister Peter Costello]. Special Minister of State, Eric Abetz's adviser was there, too. And PRs from Avcare, the Victorian Farmers' Federation, Department of Primary Industries, Bayer, GrainCorp, Dairy Australia, Nufarm (distributes Monsanto herbicides). '
'At the end of Irvine's seminar, we split into groups for exercises. One was challenged to 'assume the position of moral leadership', a lesson from Irvine's work with the biotech (GM crop) industry. When the GM crop industry faced health, environmental, economic, legal and social challenges, it mounted a higher moral ground campaign: GM crops will save third world children from malnutrition and starvation. The stratagem is to promote not with facts, said Irvine, but values.'”¦ 'Another group was charged with finding ways to discredit activists.'
Katherine Wilson. Overland 183, pp.13 17
His message was very controversial and confrontational and while no details are available of the Australian meetings, Ross Irvine’s presentation made to the CropLife Canada Annual Meeting in September 2004 is similar to reports. http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/nl/crisismgr041101.html
'Public relations is war”¦Winners gain public, media, and regulatory acceptance and support for their products, services, and organizations.' Mr Irvine explains the necessity to gain cross industry concensus quoting how significant the words of Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are to business:
'Ah, consensus... the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. '
Mr Irvine promotes a sample of the proposed debate tactics to obtain concensus 'Pesticides have done much to feed the world; DDT has saved millions of lives; and, biotechnology has many proven and potential benefits for mankind.' Part of the strategy is to mislead and identify the opposition and attack their motives.
The top three actions recommended:
1. Communicate values
'Take the moral high ground. Assume a position of moral leadership. In the case of biotechnology, talk about addressing the problems of world hunger and malnutrition by adapting crops to some of the world's harshest farming conditions. Talk about making foods safer by eliminating allergens. Talk about improving the environment by reducing chemical usage. Talk about improving human health on a world scale by making foods healthier.Talk about biotechnology's contribution to food security.
Tell the world that genetically modified foods are the next green revolution bringing boundless benefits to countless millions of people around the world. Tell politicians that when they support biotechnology they are demonstrating much needed moral and political leadership. Conversely, you may want to point out the immorality of those who oppose biotechnology.'
2. Become netwarriors
Explains how to network a wide range of industries and lobby groups to target those that oppose GM technology. 'You must bring other industries into the fray. You have the knowledge and experiences to persuade others that your battle is also their battle.'
3. Empower others
Explains how to empower others by giving information to promote the ability, motivation and confidence to take action and to 'constantly reinforce the fact that they are part of a worthy, just, and important campaign'. 'The sharing of information, strategies and tactics in cyberspace must produce regulatory and policy initiatives, letters to the editor, demonstrations, news coverage, shifts in public opinion or some other concrete result.'
These strategies have been adopted widely by pro-GM activists without explaining the vested interests involved in their push for GM.
For example, one of the most aggressive pro-GM activists are 'Independent Agronomist' Bill Crabtree of West Australia and Mr Ian Edwards (Edstar Genetics). Mr Crabtree aggressively confronts those that expresses concerns against GM and regularly confronts media if any GM concerns are reported. He regularly writes damning letters to the media slamming those opposing GM crops (www.no-till.com.au) and is well promoted by the media making outrageous statements such as stating that I and the Network of Concerned Farmers should be 'wiped from the face of the earth.' (ABC News). Supporting GM crops is obviously more lucrative than not supporting them.
Mr Crabtree was paid by WA Liberal Party politicians to write their pro-GM policy and used himself as the key reference link. GRDC not only presented Mr Crabtree with a prestigious award but have funded Mr Crabtree and his wife to visit Canada and USA.
However, his key vested interest has recently been revealed in the issuing of a prospectus for his company that has the rights to GM salt tolerant wheat. He is trying to raise funds from farmers to invest up to $2million to this technology. His prospectus can be downloaded at http://www.no-till.com.au/pdfs/GreenBlueprint/GrnBluePrint_Prospectus-Sep07-9.pdf and reveals the extend of the collaboration with the research sector alliances.
The Directors of Green Blueprint International (GBI) are Ian Edwards, Bill Crabtree and John Stone but Mr Crabtee is the sole shareholder. The prospectus is calling for investors (aimed at farmers) for a share release of up to $2million (originally raise $1,750,000 with a possibility of a further $250,000). GBI have the exclusive license to use the genes (IP and patents owned by Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics ACPFG) identified in antarctic hair grass and aim to produce frost tolerant wheat. Their research partner and technology provider is Molecular Plant Breeding Pty Ltd which is co-located with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries and they are the exclusive commercialisations agent for Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre. GBI will require a strategic commercial partner which may be why Bill and Ian are so friendly with Bayer Cropscience.
GBI pay a royalty of 20% of proceeds from sales to ACPFG. A sublicense can be granted to the University of Adelaide, the University of Melbourne (Rick Roushes report now makes sense), University of Queensland and the Victorian DPI.
It mentions that the agreement can be terminated if the commonwealth agreement (I presume it is the biotechnology strategy promising a path to market for GM crops) is terminated. In the first 3 year development stage, Ian (as chairman) is to receive up to $20,000/year and his company Edstar Genetics Pty Ltd is to receive $20,000/year for consulting advise. Bill Crabtree Agricultural Consulting is to receive $50,000/year for consulting for the first 3 years.
The aggressive cross-industry pro-GM campaign has resulted in a supposed 'consensus' of opinions in support of GM. What has not been realised is that those opinions have been manipulated and the outcomes are the result of a very misleading, very professional and very underhanded campaign.
The Moratoria on GM canola was lifted in Victoria this week following a notice of intention by the Minister for Agriculture in NSW that NSW will grow GM canola next year. Minister McDonald however must gain approval from parliament before such a decision is made.
The ABC 7.30 report (28.11.07) revealed the vested interest of Jim Peacock, head scientist in Australia.
Transcript: GUS NOSSAL, VICTORIAN MORATORIUM REVIEW PANEL: 'You know who you can trust. I mean, up in Canberra we've got Jim Peacock as the probably the leading agricultural bio-technologist in the country.' ...
GREG HOY: 'But as Australia's chief scientist, the Howard government last year chose Dr Jim Peacock, who believes just four companies will eventually control global sales of agricultural seeds. Working closely with bio-ag multi-nationals Bayer and Monsanto, Dr Peacock has founded the gene shears company Graingene Initiative, HRZ wheat consortium and a CSIRO partnered and patented GM cotton strain, genetically engineered to resist insects, regarded as his greatest triumph.'
MAX WHITTEN, FORMER CSIRO CHIEF EPIDEMIOLOGIST: 'The priority has been more around research that creates intellectual property and patents, plant variety rights and so on. So a management style, a management structure which is, I don't believe is conducive to good science.'
While GM crops may be lucrative for many investors, it needs to be realised that farmers can not afford to fund the additional costs and can not pass the costs down to consumers when consumers and markets are rejecting the products.
It is not unreasonable for farmers to insist on fair risk management to prevent adverse economic impact from the introduction of a GM crop we do not need or want. Neither genuine consumer or farmer concerns should be ignored.
The public should be outraged that a pro-GM government decision will be in the best financial interests of government and vested interests rather than what is in the best interests of the people.
The following has been provided as additional information following the release of this report. Thank you for those that have forwarded it:
1. Sir Gustav Nossal (chair of the 'independent panel' advising the Victorian Government:
Lifetime Contribution Awardee
Sir Gus' influence has formed and shaped the scientific affairs of Australia for three decades, and continues to do so. He has played a role in the birth of many Australian institutions including:
*the Cooperative Research Centres Scheme
*VicHealth which he then chaired for a decade;
*AMRAD, now one of our most prominent biotechnology companies
Sir Gus has exerted strong influence on government policy especially in his years as President of the Australian Academy of Science.
As a communicator of science he is unparalleled - inspiring future generations of scientists through lectures, radio and television.
More to AMRAD than meets the eye. David Langsam, Editor Biotech Daily.
Zenyth (formerly AMRAD) may have made losses for most of its existence, but its story is more than it first seems.
At the BioMelbourne Network September BioBreakfast entitled ‘Lessons from the evolution of AMRAD's business model’ Bioshares co-editor David Blake said that in 20 years Zenyth has more than repaid the Victorian State Government’s $15 million seed capital.
Founded in 1986 as the Australian Medical Research and Development Corp, Mr Blake said AMRAD not only paid back $20 million to the Victorian taxpayer, but also paid $5.2 million for the land it was given in Burnley and the State government retains a 16 percent holding in the $103 million company.
Professor Emeritus Sir Gustav Nossal described the history of the company formed to commercialize the intellectual property of 13 of Australia’s leading institutions at a time when there were few venture capitalists, discovery was 'publish or perish' and 'profit was a dirty word'. Prof Nossal told the 180 member audience at the Melbourne Town Hall that the 1980s Labor Government of Premier John Cain established the Victorian Economic Development Corporation, which provided the seed funding to AMRAD. Prof Nossal was the director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, one of the first of the 13 institutes on board with AMRAD. He said AMRAD signaled a change in scientific research in Australia with the development of business plans, milestones, patents and some early successes. Prof Nossal said if he had to 'do it again' he would ensure that the company was started with more than $15 million and more rights would be retained for research staff.
Zenyth Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Nash joined the company 1996 and described the agglomeration of divisions including pharmaceuticals research and development, biotechnology, discovery and a rapid diagnostics section. He said the business model was overly complex and there was a lack of focus. The company was hard to understand for investors and there was little or no value seen in its research and development activities. Dr Nash asked 'Was it a good idea at the time?' and responded with a robust 'Yes' saying there was no internet and no manual on how to establish a biotechnology company. He also pointed to a number of 'hugely successful deals and collaborations'.
In eight years from 1995 to 2003 AMRAD brought in $58.1 million in deals. The refocusing of the company meant the spinning off of most of its units leaving AMRAD Pharmaceuticals Research and Development with three divisions. The biologics and cytokines section continues as Zenyth; the virology and infectious diseases sections became Avexa in 2004 and the neurology division which joined CNS-Bio in 2005.
Dr Nash said Zenyth was now clearly focused on antibody therapies for inflammation and cancer and this was the target of the CSL takeover.
Bioshares’ Mr Blake showed several methods for evaluating AMRAD and noted revenue from property deals was as important as revenue from research and development. He said there were years that the company made a small profit, but overall losses tallied $89 million from inception until 2006. Mr Blake said total revenue tallied $826 million but the company had 'only been to the market twice' for funds.
Mr Blake also said the key messages from the AMRAD experience were to be focused rather than diversified, that the market wanted to see motivation and discipline and 'skin in the game'. He said a biotechnology company needed to set 'reasonable expectations of failure, not unreasonable expectations of success'.
David Langsam, Editor, Biotech Daily
5th September 2006
Major alliances include:
JBWere Private Equity Fund
Challenger Biotech Capital Limited
Scientific Advisory Board
Department of Natural Resources and Environment (Victoria)
The Origins of Foursight
The consultancy, Foursight Associates, an advisory service in science, technology, research and development, came into existence in Melbourne in October 1996.
At the time, Mitchell was Director of Research in the R&D Division of CSL Limited; Stocker was Director of Research and Innovation with Pratt Industries; Nossal had very recently retired from the Directorship of The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) and had an office in the Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne; and Penington had also recently retired, in this case, as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne and was located in Collins Street. The four individuals who became the Principals of Foursight had known each other for many years, Mitchell and Stocker having been Ph.D. students at WEHI, an affiliated institute of the University of Melbourne.
Conversations between Stocker and Mitchell and Mitchell and Nossal in mid 1996 crystallised the Foursight concept. It became clear that there was one particular similarity in the respective positions of Mitchell in CSL and Stocker in Pratt Industries they were approached regularly to become involved in national and international science and commercial endeavours that were peripheral to the core business and interests of their respective employer organisations. Both individuals had a desire to accede to many of those requests for advice and involvement, preferably remunerated!
Over coffee in Carlton, the concept of a consultancy/advisory service in the commercialisation of Science and Technology was hatched and developed by Stocker and Mitchell. It would aim to provide advice to investors and inventors 'bringing the bench and the bank together' generally around two key aspects: (a) a dispassionate and authoritative evaluation of the technology and its potential without the hype, and (b) the identification and analysis of the preferred commercialisation option. The essentials of the business plan were formulated on several table napkins. Many different clients were envisaged entrepreneurs, research institutes, large and small research-driven companies across the life sciences but particularly in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors, other S&T consultancies, University tech transfer companies, patent attorneys, Government Departments, venture capitalists, merchant bankers, funds managers, business angels and high nett-worth individuals. [In the event companies and individuals in each category have been clients of Foursight].
The three or four exploratory discussions between Mitchell and Stocker coincided with the Olympic Games in Atlanta with terminology such as 'Oarsome Foursome', 'Dream Team' etc in the press. It was decided that the team should comprise four people, all of whom would be well known in academic, commercial and Government circles. Stocker undertook to approach David Penington, Mitchell to approach Gus Nossal and within something less than five minutes, the proposed company had four enthusiastic, potential partners/principals! This left, inter alia, matters of name, location and structure, function being quite clear. John Stocker’s wife Jo had the inspired suggestion of 'Foursight' there being much mention of foresight and foresighting in the literature at the time.
In regard to site, the general feeling amongst the four Principals was that the office should be located either in Melbourne’s CBD, in Parkville close to the University or in St Kilda Road. A marvellous opportunity to locate Foursight in an annex of KPMG House emerged following discussions between Stocker and Michael Andrew of KPMG. Foursight Associates Pty Ltd was then registered with four directors and shareholders and a deed of commitment executed by the Principals. We were also fortunate in securing the services of a former personal assistant of John Stocker's when at CSIRO, Ms Aileen Donoghoe, our Executive Secretary.
Early publicity in the Business Section of The Age newspaper highlighted the credentials of the Principals particularly at the academia industry interface and also our desire to grow the business through engagement of young people who were either technically or commercially trained and who wished to extend their range of skills to embrace the alternate area. 'To surround ourselves with youngsters who would become the next cadre of CEOs and Business Managers of biotech start-ups' to quote John and Gus. The publicity led to a flood of enquiries and Foursight was launched launched formally in fact, on the 3 October 1996 in the atrium of KPMG House by Robert Gottliebsen of BRW and The Hon Mark Birrell, MP, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. [Again, in the event, we have as yet not recruited staff with the training objective in mind, rather working with young entrepreneurs on a case-by-case basis].
Virtually every significant activity undertaken by Foursight includes input from all four Principals (unless actual or potential conflicts of interest exist something to which we pay particular and rigorous attention). Mitchell and Stocker generally undertake initial work. An indication of major Foursight projects/appointments is as follows:
*appointment as technical advisors to biotechnology investment funds.
*evaluation of technology in the life sciences and identification of commercialisation options.
*assistance in developing and packaging technology and the commercial opportunity with a view to attracting investment.
*scientific advisors to established and early-stage companies in the life sciences, including advice on intellectual property development.
*analysis of R&D structures and commercial arrangements for industry and academia, including strategic planning.
*appointment as Chief Scientist of the State Government of Victoria's Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE).
*advice to Federal and State Governments, Universities and Hospitals on science, technology and innovation. [Early in the life of Foursight, Stocker was appointed Chief Scientist of Australia and Mitchell was appointed Principal Scientific Advisor by the Victorian Government].
Of course, Foursight Principals hold various positions and undertake tasks nationally and internationally in their own right. From day one, the essence of the Foursight business has been to take on projects of high potential impact, to provide clear advice in our areas of expertise to clients and to have 'serious fun'. We are mindful of the importance of providing critical and honest review of technology to potential investors and investees, facilitating the commercialisation of Australian scientific research (both at the level of the individual and the overall 'environment' for commercialisation) and encouraging all aspects of entrepreneurship. We make extensive use of our overlapping networks and earnestly attempt to stay within our areas of expertise preferably the biomedical arena and certainly confined to the life sciences. It is a fact that Foursight (as of early 2001) is 'both an address and a business' with significant pro bono publico and public good activity. Our primary motivation is to aggressively promote innovation leading to wealth, social development and job creation (as well as sustainability) with the conviction that Australia can actually be a 'clever country'.
© 2001 Foursight Pty Ltd.
An ideal location for exposing links is GM Watch http://www.gmwatch.org/profile.asp
the following is CSIRO's profile http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=187&page=C
CSIRO stands for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Reseach Organisation . It is promoted as Australia's pre-eminent public scientific research body.
Although ostensibly 'publicly funded' CSIRO has, in reality, been encouraged to get 30% of its funding from buisness with the CSIRO top management encouraging its staff to go to 40%. As a point of comparison, only about 10% of the funding of Europe's leading plant biotech institute, the John Innes Centre, is thought to come directly from industry although the JIC is considered highly industrially aligned.
According to John Stocker, CSIRO's former chief executive, 'Working with the transnationals makes a lot of sense, in the context of market access. There are very few Australian companies that have developed market access in the United States, in Europe and in Japan, the world's major marketplaces. Yes, we do find that it is often the best strategy to get into bed with these companies .' (Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1992).
Richard Hindmarsh in an article in the Journal of Australian Political Economy (No 44.), 'Consolidating Control: Plant Variety Rights, Genes and Seeds', describes CSIRO as having a long history of involvement with intensive agricultural R&D and collaboration with agribusiness multinationals, and as having become increasingly dependent upon industry funding. The effect of this is 'to generate convergence between private sector and public sector plant breeding operators.'
Hindmarsh notes, 'The CSIRO, in keeping with its position of being at the forefront of scientific research, prioritised genetic engineering research in 1979. CSIRO scientists have since been very active in the promotion of GE to the Australian community, and especially to other scientists (Hindmarsh, 1996). In addition, multinational companies are seen as the key avenue to the international commercialisation of biotechnology products and research of both Australian public sector institutions and biotechnology firms.'
Hindmarsh also notes, '...the indications are that a Byzantine web of formal contractual obligations and informal connections has emerged between the CSIRO and other public-sector agencies..., universities, small or new biotechnology firms (NBFs), and multinational corporations.' The corporations listed by Hindmarsh as having direct financial connections with CSIRO include: Agrigenetics, Monsanto, Rhone Poulenc and AgrEvo (later part of Aventis and then Bayer). A collaboration between the CSIRO and Monsanto generated Australia's first major GM commercial crop.
On the day of the announcement of the commercial approval for Bayer's GM canola (oilsedd rape) in Australia, 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.'
For some 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 role of 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 reportd; research into organic farming is 'out'. He described morale among staff as at rock bottom.