COMMENT from Janet Grogan, GM Free Consumers Network: You may have heard the West Australian State Government has allowed Monsanto a 20% share of the state's plant breeding research body, Intergrain. The following reveals details far more worrying than the Ag Minister's media statement suggests.
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WA Government partners with Monsanto
The WA State Government's push for GM crops became clearer this week when Minister Redman released a statement saying that our state cereal breeding company, InterGrain, has joined with Monsanto,which has acquired a 19.9 % minority interest. InterGrain says it intends to remain an independent provider of new grain varieties for all Australian farmers.
But Monsanto's Peter O'Keefe says it can guarantee buying out more of the company in the future.
This was reported on the ABC, which included a podcast. Click on the link and listen to the actual interview as Skye Shannon speaks with Brian Whan, InterGrain, and Peter O'Keefe, Monsanto, and listen to the end remarks of the podcast! (from 4:40)
There Brian Whan says "I think the key word is 'Choice'... about farmers having the choice... A really important concept is that biotech traits by themselves are absolutely useless unless they can be put into the very best germplasm and that probably alone just illustrates what this deal's all about..."
(Skye: What if farmers do not want to use... are you reducing their choice?)
"... Well I guess if they don't like that they can stay with the old varieties, there's still plenty of other options they can have. I don't for one minute think that a farmer is going to reject a 10% yield improvement or a 5% yield improvement because it has a biotech trait. I think the reality is in the experience we are seeing is that they will very rapidly take up that technology, and we are seeing it with canola right at the moment".
As the interviewer points out, the intention is to take the best (non GM) germplasm and insert a GM gene, thus restricting a non GM choice. So if farmers do not want to go with the GM varieties they will be stuck with the old ones!
This is exactly what Canadian farmers are facing with canola varieties today. Research there has ignored improving non GM varieties, leaving farmers with no choice.
You may have already noticed the use of the word "Choice" in relation to GM crops. What it means is a choice for GM growers, leaving no choice for non GM growers and us!
A quick search shows the InterGrain website has a Q & A page with this entry
"Will InterGrain pursue GM wheat?
Initially the collaboration will support conventional breeding techniques. In the longer term, InterGrain has always planned to utilise GM traits in wheat as soon as they become available, as this will give the greatest benefits to WA growers in the future. The business arrangement with Monsanto will enable InterGrain to bring the latest and best traits to WA and Australia for the overall benefit of grain growers."
This ties in with an article from the Countryman this week. Ian Edwards (CEO of Edstar Genetics) has revealed that his company has been trialling wheat and barley varieties with a future intention to cross them with GM. Interestingly he describes the success of the non GM varieties but explains, "These are the crops that the GM will need to be crossed with in order to make them viable in WA."
"Viable"? Perhaps for Edwards, InterGrain and Monsanto!
But even Monsanto isn't convinced by its own spin as it adds a 'get-out–of-jail' clause to the end of this media release.
"Undue reliance should not be placed on these forward looking statements". And how soon will all of this happen? According to Brian Whan, "We are taking all of our wheat breeders over to St Louis headquarters of Monsanto in the middle of October... that quickly ...because we want to implement this opportunity as quickly as we can".
So clearly the rush is on to convince our wheat growers that GM wheat is the future, even though the idea has been rejected several times by farmers and markets globally, with the biggest opposition coming from Canada . http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11925:gm-wheat-rejected-in-26-countries
Why should we be opposed to GM wheat?
1. InterGrain intends to ultimately provide new GM seed only
2. This will remove non GM choice for farmers and consumers
3. There are no markets open to GM wheat.
4. GM wheat will have to be labelled
5. There is consumer rejection of GM foods
6. Price penalties of up to 40% could result.
7. Desired traits can be developed in non GM varieties.
8. Possibility of larger (major?) InterGrain ownership by Monsanto
9. GM crops have not increased yield (GM soy has 10% decrease)
10. GM canola uptake has been poor (still less than 8% over east) so cannot be used as a model