GRDC funds pro-GM "Mickey Mouse" tour (14/7/2006)

Bill Crabtree who's running this tour is an absolute GM zealot. A less objective leader for Australia's Grains Research and Development Corporation to subsidise with farmers' money is hard to imagine.

"If the tour is all about knowledge-seeking and enlightenment, then surely both viewpoints of the GM debate should have been considered as part of the tour." - Farm Weekly editorial

GRDC funds pro-GM "Mickey Mouse" tour
2 items, 14 July 2006

GRDC slated for backing Canada trip
Farm Weekly, 29 June 2006

A grower research tour of Canada which will focus on genetically modified (GM) canola crops and bio-diesel has been labelled a waste of valuable Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funds by anti-GM campaigners.

Bill Crabtree of Crabtree Agricultural Consulting will lead a three-week study tour in late July which will expose 30 Australian growers, including 19 from WA, to Canada's progressive farming systems.

The tour will visit the John Deere factory, Chicago Stock Exchange, Canadian Wheat Board, University of Manitoba, Canadian Canola Council (CCC) as well as Bayer Cropscience and Monsanto chemical factories.

Mr Crabtree said it was important for GRDC to be involved in the tour because GM canola dominated the Canadian market with 77pc of its canola GM.

He said the tour was necessary because Australia was being left behind in the GM gold rush and people needed to see first hand what was happening.

"We plan to expose farmers to real innovation that is happening in Canada, including GM technology, no tillage technology, fertiliser placement, liquid fertilisers and developments in bio-diesel," Mr Crabtree said.

"We're going to meet farmers with bio-diesel plants on their properties as well as industry leaders, researchers, professors, department of agriculture people and other leading farmers who use leading edge technology."

However, Network of Concerned Farmers national spokesperson Julie Newman said she could not understand why valuable GRDC levies were going towards sponsoring such a biased pro-GM tour.

Individual farmers are funding their own ticket for the farming excursion, but 7pc of the overall tour costs are being paid for out of GRDC funds.

While Mr Crabtree's costs are covered in the overall budget, Ms Newman was far from impressed by news that GRDC was sponsoring the tour.

Ms Newman said if it was a balanced tour, she would not have a problem with it.

"As a farmer forced to pay compulsory GRDC levies, I don't think this is an appropriate way for GRDC to spend our money," Ms Newman said. "This money would be better spent doing proper research on why GM-growing countries, except cotton producers, are either reliant on subsidies or on government support to prevent payment of royalties.

"You only need to look at the US Agriculture Department statistics for Canada when main adoption started 1997/98 and GM yield went down, to know that Mr Crabtree's promise of a 50pc yield improvement with GM is totally false.

"Canada has just had a very large raise in subsidies and support despite Canadian farmers saying to Farm Weekly in a recent article that they are not subsidised by the government."

"The Canadian grain and oilseed sector has recently received $515 million in subsidies because higher cost, lower commodity price and little or no improvement in yield does not equate to a benefit to farmers, only scientists and investors."

Ms Newman also questioned why the tour was visiting Monsanto and Bayer Cropscience. She said it was important for growers to be made aware that GM companies, research institutes and the CCC have a financial interest in promoting GM.

But Mr Crabtree said those who thought the tour was a waste of valuable GRDC funding were welcome to join in to see the benefits for themselves. "This is the fifth tour I've organised and only the second one that's been funded by GRDC, but on each tour the growers return with a much broader understanding of agriculture," he said.

"The people who are critical of this trip are the same ones who are anti-GM and they need to go on a tour and see what's happening for themselves to get their heads out of the sand."

"The farmers who go to Canada will gain valuable information and see first hand the benefits of GM production."

"I suspect these growers will come back and explain to other farmers that this technology is safe; it's been in operation for 10 years and has made Canadian farmers a lot of money and kept them profitable."

Mr Crabtree said while there was no formal method for the 30 growers on tour to share the information with the remainder of Australia's crop farmers when they returned, GRDC was sponsoring one of its communications officers to join the tour.

"It is up to these farmers how they choose to share their experience with the rest of the country but knowledge is power and they will come back with some more power," he said.

"The proof is in the pudding, those that have been on previous tours that GRDC didn't fund have found the experience incredibly valuable."

"These growers have made an input into WA and Australian agriculture free of charge at the local tennis club, bowls club or other places in the community that they have chosen to share what they have learned."

And a follow up editorial article

Farm Weekly, July 13, 2006

Last week this newspaper reported frustration by some quarters at the use of GRDC funding to subsidise growers' trips to North America, with much of the itinerary taken up by visits to GM crop sites.

No sites or stops on the tour were planned to include farmers or growers that had negative or ambivilant experiences with GM cropping.

If the tour is all about knowledge-seeking and enlightenment, then surely both viewpoints of the GM debate should have been considered as part of the tour.

Even more peculiar is the tour poponents' rush to defend it since the publication of the article.

As an independent newspaper, it is our charter to examine any events, tours or meetings that are of interest to the public.

We would inquire just as vigorously if an anti-GM group planned to travel to Japan for so called green niche market resarch with GRDC subsidies.

Finding out the facts is our job; but we now do wonder what the GRDC thinks its job is.

We do know, however, that it does not have a sense of humour.

Part of the tour itinerary initially involved a trip to Disneyland, which we referred to as Mickey Mouse research, with tongue obviously firmly in cheek.

Certain GRDC representatives took umbrage at this... and whether by coincidence, or otherwise, the Disneyland visit has now been taken off the itinerary.

How did that song go again?

"Come along and sing a song and join the jamboree, M-I-C-K-E-Y,..."

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