WA organic farmer Steve Marsh launches appeal on GM damages decision
The Court of Appeal in WA today heard submissions by Western Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh who has launched an appeal against a 2014 WA Supreme Court decision that found Mr Marsh’s neighbour was not responsible for ‘damages’ caused by ‘contamination’ of Mr Marsh’s farm from his neighbour’s Genetically Modified (GM) canola.
Mr Marsh and his wife and Susan Marsh sued 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. Mr Marsh lodged his appeal on 18 June 2014.
Australian Food News reported that Justice Kenneth Martin, who presided over the original case, had said that the responsibility for Marsh’s decertification fell not with the 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”.
QC McCusker representing Mr Marsh in appeal
Prominent QC and former Western Australian governor Malcolm McCusker is representing Mr Marsh in the appeal hearing.
Mr Marsh had sought $85,000 in damages from his former childhood friend Mr Baxter and a permanent injunction that would stop Mr Baxter growing GM canola in the future.
The canola swathes blew onto Mr Marsh’s property in 2010 and he lost organic certification for 70 per cent of his property.
Swathing harvesting method ‘at fault’
Opening the appeal case today, Mr McCusker highlighted the swathing harvesting method used by Mr Baxter. Mr McCusker said it created a “real chance” winds could blow the GM canola off two paddocks on his Seven Oaks property and onto Mr Marsh’s Eagle Rest farm.
The legal argument is that a reasonable person should have anticipated this could have happened and that the manner of harvesting was the cause of the problem.
The appeal hearing has been set down for three days.