The levy and taxpayer-funded Rural Development Corporations misdirect huge resources into pet projects that are doomed to fail, short changing those who foot their bills. Farmers must demand a much bigger say in how R&D levies are spent.
Tens of millions of dollars were wasted on researching Genetically Manipulated (GM) crops and animals over the past 20 years, giving nothing to the 98% of our 120,000 farmers who remain GM-free. Monsanto, Bayer and other gene patent owners are the big winners, collecting royalties on their GM seed and chemical packages year after year.
R&D funds spent on new GM techniques such as CRISPR, now touted as revolutionary, would also be squandered. We hear the same empty promises as before – feed the world; higher yields; drought and salt tolerance; nitrogen fixation in grains; more nutritious foods; feral animal biocontrol; and much more.
Scarce R&D funds would be better spent on transitioning to the regenerative soil and management systems that will be needed when oil and phosphate supplies dwindle and climate change really kicks in. Say ‘no’! to those hard-earned dollars being wasted on failed GM research.
South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and NT all remain GM-free. And our GM-free canola crop is in such strong demand in Europe that premiums of up to $50/tonne, compared with the GM varieties, are still being paid everywhere. We have favoured access to the EU market where any GM contamination would ruin our competitive advantage.
Broad-acre GM crops were launched in 1996, in the USA. Almost 100% of GM crops remain the same – soy, corn, canola, cotton and sugarbeet, with only two traits – Roundup tolerance, to allow the herbicide to be sprayed more often and at higher doses, and Bt insect toxins made in the plants to kill caterpillars of some moths.
GM crops have hit the wall everywhere, with Roundup tolerant weeds an expensive headache in many areas where they were repeatedly grown. This year soy with both Roundup and Dicamba tolerance was launched in the USA to deal with Roundup resistant weeds. Dicamba is a disaster, drifting onto and damaging about 3.6 million acres of other crops, resulting in 3,000 court cases and several state bans on the chemical’s further use.
The insects are fighting back too, with many minor insect pests such as mirids and aphids blooming in Australia’s GM cotton crops, where Bt toxin created an ecological niche. Now China, our major market for cotton seed has rejected the new Bollgard III varieties, making it a marketing disaster too.
Let’s fund projects to create sustainable and regenerative GM-free systems, to feed, clothe and house all future generations of Australians well.
Bob Phelps Executive Director Gene Ethics