Farmer Steve Marsh to appeal GM canola contamination case
Western Australian farmer Steve Marsh has decided to appeal a decision made against him in the Western Australian Supreme Court in May 2014.
Mr Marsh lodged his appeal on 18 June 2014 and the appeal will be heard in the next six to twelve months before the Court of Appeal made up of three judges.
The case concerned Western Australian organic farmers Steve and Susan Marsh suing their conventional farmer neighbour Michael Baxter for growing a Genetically Modified (GM) canola crop which caused ‘contamination’ of the Marsh property, that produced organically certified cereal crop and lamb.
Australian Food News reported that Justice Kenneth Martin, who presided over the case, had said that the responsibility for the Marsh’s decertification fell not with their neighbour, but with organic certifying organisation National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) and NASAA’s subsidiary certifying organisation NASAA Certified Organic Pty Ltd (NCO). Justice Martin said the decertification had been “unreasonable”.
Activist group, The Safe Food Foundation, which is raising funds to support Mr Marsh’s appeal process, has welcomed Mr Marsh’s decision to appeal.
“It is too early for either the pro GM or non GM or organic industry to draw any conclusions from the case now that it will be appealed,” said Scott Kinnear from The Safe Food Foundation.
Activist group calls for legislation
“We reject any suggestion that the economic loss suffered by Steve Marsh could have been sorted out as suggested over the back fence or over a cup of tea or a beer,” Mr Kinnear said. “This case should never have been brought if State and Commonwealth governments had implemented legislation as requested by the organic industry when the Gene Technology Act was introduced,” he said.
Mr Kinnear said The Safe Food Foundation believed farmer protection legislation was “the appropriate way to sort out these market access issues rather than common law that is expensive, risky and comes at a great individual personal cost”.
“The Safe Food Foundation strongly supports organic farming as a far better way to protect the environment in Australia and wants to see its adoption expanded and not curtailed by contamination from GM,” Mr Kinnear said.
Mr Kinnear said The Safe Food Foundation wanted to see legislation that required GM farmers to meet “strict rules designed to stop contamination”.