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.