ABC Rural: Dramatic Evidence Presented at Fertiliser Inquiry

By Mary Goode

ABC Rural – Wednesday, 12/11/2008



Senate hearings into the price and supply of fertiliser continue in Canberra, with dramatic evidence suggesting the CSIRO has stymied research into biological alternatives.

The inquiry was launched earlier this year because current high fertiliser prices are threatening to put many growers out of business.

Last night’s hearing heard from a former CSIRO researcher who claimed the organisation stopped his studies into biological fertilisers and farming.

Dr Maarten Stapper told the committee that his studies into biological farming were proving a success.

“But then I was told by bosses that I was not allowed to work on biological farming because biological farming was not viable for the future, and we have to feed the world,” he says.

“So I got the choice last year, either to stay and be a good (inaudible) agronomist in the current thinking, or be made redundant if I pursued biological.”

Dr Stapper agreed to forward on proof of this to the inquiry.

He was then asked by the committee why he thought his research had been blocked.

“Vested interests,” he says.

“To keep getting money from the big companies to keep doing their work and not upset that balance.”

Although Dr Stapper agreed he did not have proof of this.

Last night’s inquiry also heard from Independent member for Kennedy, Bob Katter.

Mr Katter raised concerns about the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry into fertiliser pricing.

Released in August, the Commission reported nothing underhand or illegal about fertiliser price hikes.

Instead it says international supply and demand factors are the cause of the price increases.

Mr Katter is not so sure. He says while it’s true that global prices for DAP have increased, Australia produces most of its own DAP.

He says there’s a huge difference between the global price of urea and what farmers are paying.

“The ACCC is supposed to be our watchdog, but as I’ve said before, they’re not only the type of watchdog that not only doesn’t bark when a burglar comes, but bites the foot of its owner and not the burglar.”

The hearings will continue with the Senate expected to report its findings in December.


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