West Australian Organic Farmer Loses Court Fight
AN organic farmer has lost a landmark case against the neighbour and former friend he accused of contaminating his crop with genetically-modified canola.
The decision was delivered in the Supreme Court of Western Australia this afternoon after a closely-observed civil case.
Changerup farmer Steve Marsh claimed he lost organic certification for more than half of his farm – Eagles Rest - after GM canola drifted onto his land from the property of Michael Baxter.
Four years ago, Mr Marsh’s oats, rye and sheep farm, about 3.5 hours drive southeast of Perth, was certified organic by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia.
He alleged he lost that certification when GM seeds blew 1.5km inside his property.
Mr Marsh and his wife claimed damages from Mr Baxter and a permanent injunction against his future swathing of genetically modified canola on his land.
Justice Kenneth Martin described the crops from the Baxter’s property as “entirely benign”. He found the decision to withdraw organic certification was made by the NASAA/NCO and it was that decision that cost the Marsh’s about $85,000 in reduced income.
Justice Martin said there was “a very strong body of evidence in this trial to suggest that there was no legitimate contractual basis for NCO to decertify, for nearly three years, paddocks 7 to 13 of Eagle Rest, as regards a use for pasture or for crops”.
Croplife Australia described the verdict as a victory for commonsense.
“It confirms the longstanding tradition of coexistence of all farming methods. The decision however reinforces the need for the Federal Government to take urgent action to prevent future unnecessary conflict caused by Australia’s flawed organic standards,” Matthew Cossey, Chief Executive of CropLife Australia said.
Justice Martin also found the scientific evidence led at the trial showed “none of the Marshes’ crops or sheep at Eagle Rest could acquire any genetic traits of RR (GM) canola.”
The Australian Greens immediately expressed disappointment at the verdict.
“Today’s decision reiterates the fact that the rights of non-GM farmers are not being protected, and the system needs to change,” Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens agriculture spokesperson said.
“It is clear that non-GMO farmers such as Steve Marsh face significant financial impacts if their crops are contaminated.
“Serious concerns remain about the use of GM crops in Australia, and to address this the Greens are calling for the reinstatement of the moratorium on GM crops in WA and changes to the laws governing liability and food labelling in order to protect the choices of farmers and consumers across the state.”
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I do not find this verdict surprising but that does not mean I am not upset by it. It is a travesty of justice to decide a case the way this one was with no concern for the injured party whatsoever. Very telling. Make no mistake about it, this judgement was not for the farmer named Baxter, this was a decision for MONSANTO which BTW sues farmers at the drop of a hat if there is even a hint that their GMO cr#p has blown onto someone's land. I wonder how many phone calls the judge got in the months since the trial began? I also have to say I don't think Mr. Marsh had as good a defense as he should have had. Transgenic contamination is a global problem and his is not the first incidence, although the way this trial appeared to be rigged from the start I would bet no other incidences would be allowed as evidence. For the judge to dismiss this entirely shows a blatant bias. Mr. Baxter had a duty to make sure transgenic pollution did not drift onto Mr. Marsh's property and he should also have been aware of the effects of that transgenic contamination on organic crops. So now Mr. Baxter will continue to be allowed to plant GM canola to blow it's invasive genes into the wild while Mr. Marsh has what?
This decision wasn't about farmer's rights, this decision was about maintaining the control by the biotech industry of our global food supply and PROFIT. It is also obvious from the decision that the judge admitted there is no substantial equivalence between GM and NON GM seeds. That in and of itself should at least have warranted stipulations on the part of Mr. Baxter to grow his GM spawn seeds within a certain distance. However, again, this was clearly not based on justice but to please Monsanto which may I remind the judge DOES NOT OWN LIFE.
I suppose the next step in this fight then is to simply boycott all products grown by farmers who continue to bow to them and sell their souls. For these farmers who grow GM to state that farmers should be able to grow what they choose are lying. They don't want that. They only care about profit at the expense of seed saving and biodiversity. They now stand against everything farming represents. They should be shunned. We need to Diversify from Monsanto and also the farmers who support their toxic legacy.
There are also precedents that should have been mentioned in this trial. Specifically, that of the case of Percy Schmeiser in Canada:
Steve Marsh is appealing this decision and I wish him the best. To Mr. Baxter, perhaps a little perspective on your part is in order. You side with the enemy of nature against one of your own and the biodiversity of this planet. Remember that every morning when you wake up and look in the mirror.
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