EXTRACTS: 'Australian farmers pay for pre-breeding, plus the seed plus a cut when we deliver any grain produced from the seed. With GM crops, farmers will also pay a 'user fee' for using a patented product or growing its progeny. The farmer/research alliance should be symbiotic, not parasitic.'
'Our funding is even passed on to the GM industry through Agrifood Awareness to pay for promoting GM which would promote corporate investment.'
FARMERS CALL FOR RESEARCH LEVIES TO BE VOLUNTARY
Press Release: 15th January 2008
Network of Concerned Farmers
In reaction to the announcement today that Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has doubled its compulsory levy due to the increase of grain prices, the Network of Concerned Farmers are calling for levies to be voluntary. NCF claim that no other farmers in the world pay as much as Australian farmers towards research and development and Australian farmers should not be forced to take over government R&D funding.
'Why should farmers be forced to pay a R&D levy if we do not own the intellectual property we pay for?' asked Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers. 'Australian farmers pay for pre-breeding, plus the seed plus a cut when we deliver any grain produced from the seed. With GM crops, farmers will also pay a 'user fee' for using a patented product or growing its progeny.'
'The farmer/research alliance should be symbiotic, not parasitic. The drive behind GM crops is simply to encourage investment to the R&D sector at the expense of farmers.'
Currently farmers are required to pay 1% levy on the value of all grain produced before any costs are deducted. In the past, money has been allocated to breeding institutes to develop and release new varieties. The Senate estimates revealed that GRDC levies are now being allocated to pre-breeding, a section of R&D traditionally paid by the Federal Government through Universities. Investors have been encouraged to invest in the development and commercialisation stages, but in order for investors to profit, costs have increased to farmers.
'Farmers are being forced to take over government R&D funding and give it to the investors encouraged to other sections of R&D so that they can make a bigger profit from farmers. Its not acceptable.' said Mrs Newman.
'R&D has turned from a 'public good' service to a profit-making entity. To top it off, the paperwork given to government explains that our levy contributions are 'government contributions' which indicates that we are paying our own subsidies as R&D is included as a farmer subsidy. In one case, our funding led to a research alliance with a Canadian inoculant company to produce inoculant more suitable for opposition international farmers and while originally vehemently denied, was announced after media was involved.'
The approval for set levy amounts is given by Grains Council of Australia who's member farm lobby groups receive significant funding from GRDC to fund their conferences. The final approval is given by the Federal government who are withdrawing from funding plant breeding.
'Some drought stricken farmers found their GRDC levies were more than their net income and this is difficult to take when farmers see GRDC money being wasted on conferences where thousands of researchers are paid to fly around the countryside staying in top hotels to listen to each other speak. Our funding is even passed on to the GM industry through Agrifood Awareness to pay for promoting GM which would promote corporate investment.'
'Farmers must own the intellectual property we pay for and farmers must be given the choice to either support GRDC or not as they are clearly not working in the best interest of farmers.'
Media contact: Julie Newman 08 98711562 or 08 98711644