Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Battle of the Basin

By Simon Grose

Differences between farmers and scientists are being heightened by a process designed to reconcile them.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Australian agriculture and Australian science have a lot in common. Both are well-resourced and technically sophisticated. Both have contributed immensely over many decades to the accumulation of Australia’s national wealth. And they have a long history of working cooperatively, with scientific research enabling our farmers to raise productivity and to do so more sustainably.

However, as the tortuous process of reform to water usage in the Murray-Darling Basin grinds and lurches more sideways than forwards, schisms and distrust between our scientists and farmers are threatening to dominate their relations. Two consecutive conScience columns in this magazine highlight the emerging conflict.

Last month the executive director of the National Irrigators’ Council, George Chesson, after acknowledging the productive history of cooperation between science and agriculture, said that the “prostitution of scientific opinion is devaluing science in general and turning scientists into activists, often resulting in a high degree of mistrust that I believe is unfortunately increasing”.

Chesson questioned the validity of the precautionary principle and the integrity of the peer review process, argued that farmers should be given the power to review scientific findings, and said “some scientific organisations” are using agriculture “as a whipping boy for fundraising. We...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (sciencemedia.com.au).