(January 27, 2015) Remarks by The Hon. Lyle Stewart, Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture to the January 12th Annual General Meeting of the Saskatchewan Wheat Commission raise concerns about conflicts of interest in the agricultural research sector said Kyle Korneychuk, spokesperson for the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, an independent prairie-wide farm group.

“By strongly suggesting the farmer-elected Saskatchewan Wheat commission join Cereals Canada, the Minister has shown that he does not understand Cereals Canada is an industry captured group and cannot reflect the interests of farmers. It has only three western farmers on a Board largely composed of representatives of multinational grain and agro-chemical companies. Why would the Minister want to dilute farmers’ voices on such an important responsibility as the research and development of new varieties of wheat and barley?” asked Korneychuk. “The public and our customers have already spoken very loudly that they do not want our essential food crops controlled by multi-national agro-chemical companies whose only mandate is to provide profits to their shareholders.”

Korneychuk went on to observe that during the elections to the Wheat Commission this debate also took place with farmers voting for the continuation of public interest plant breeding and research. “Wheat farmers know that midge resistant wheat would never have been developed by an agro-chemical company with insecticides to sell and all farmers are very aware of the fact that canola research has resulted in very high cost seed compared to the pedigreed wheat and barley varieties developed by farmer-funded research. Minister Stewart apparently has not learned the lesson taught by canola that allowing an agro-chemical company to control research just results in the seed being tailored to enhance the profits of the company, not farmers. The lesson farmers have learned is that conflicts of interest like we’ve seen with canola matter to our profitability and competitiveness and they matter to our customers.”

“We hope the farmer-elected Directors of the Saskatchewan Wheat commission will continue to chart an independent course for wheat research which focuses on profitability for the farmer members who pay for that research. Diluting that interest by joining industry-captured groups and giving research money to the private trade does nothing for either the competitiveness of farmers or the development of the most agronomically useful wheat and barley varieties” observed Korneychuk.

Korneychuk closed by observing that Minister Stewart had set a high standard of democratic accountability when he respected the right of all Saskatchewan wheat and barley producers to vote on directors for the two commissions by using a mail-in ballot so all wheat and barley producers could vote, and he should continue with that high standard by respecting the results of the farmers’ votes.
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Background: Public Plant Breeding compared to private sector plant breeding

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