Greens South West candidate and existing Upper House member Giz Watson has asked the Auditor-General to examine Monsanto’s partpurchase of Intergrain.
Amid a raft of concerns by antigenetically modified foods activists, the Greens’ GM spokeswoman said the 19.5 per cent purchase of the formerly State-run grains research centre was alarming and boded ill for the future of agriculture in WA.
A proposed second stage sale of more shares in Intergrain would compound the favouritism of multinationals like Monsanto over WA’s struggling Agriculture Department.
“People feel (Mr Redman) isn’t looking after the department in terms of providing the support to farmers,” the MLC said.
“They feel the department is getting emaciated. Its research department is gutted.”
She wanted the Auditor-General to look at Monsanto’s investment and see if it was a “kosher process”.
The increasing ownership of Intergrain would allow multinationals to own the patents to a high percentage of seed stock used by WA farmers, ultimately giving companies like Monsanto a chokehold on the market, according to Julie Newman, a former WA Farmers grains section vice president and challenger for Mr Redman’s seat of Warren-Blackwood.
“When the Minister said yes to GM crops, Monsanto was allowed to pay $10.5 million … and they now own all the intellectual property of the plant breeders,” Ms Newman said.
She suspected the growing presence of GM in WA was less about the benefits of GM technology – activists, including the Margaret River branch of Consumers for GM-Free Food argue foreign markets like Japan are worried by increasing moves to market GM grains – but about the commercial licence it gave companies over natural products and therefore markets.
Ms Newman said it was widely believed the next share sale in Intergrain would be pushed back until after the election.
As reported last week, she feared the Agriculture Minister would green-light development of GM wheat – which Mr Redman said was more than 10 years away from consideration.
The National Party MP also said the next stage of Monsanto’s purchase of Intergrain shares had not been put off until after March’s State election.
“As was made clear in 2010 Monsanto took a 19.9 per cent share in Intergrain with the option to increase that share to 26 per cent within five years.
There are no plans for any further purchases of a share of Intergrain,” Mr Redman said.
The Agriculture Minister said partnerships with industry were supporting WA farmers by giving them access to the latest technology.
The Auditor-General’s Office confirmed it had received Ms Watson’s formal application.
“All audit requests put to my office by Parliament and by the community are considered against a range of criteria and any requests received in relation to this would be treated no differently,” Auditor-General Colin Murphy said this week.
Monsanto Australia did not respond to inquiries. The WA Farmers Federation declined to comment.