Steve Marsh, the Australian farmer is continuing his fight against genetically modified (GM) land contamination in the court of appeal. Marsh made waves when he sued his neighbor, Michael Baxter, for contaminating his organic farm with genetically modified crops.
The basis of Marsh’s lawsuit was that he lost his highly priced organic certification due to the sowing practices of his neighbor resulting in GM canola contamination of his crop. Marsh was claiming economic damages as a direct result of the GM contamination which resulted in the loss of his organic certification by, (National Association of Sustainable Agriculture), NASAA. Baxter has maintained that he complied with GM sowing protocols and bought the seeds from Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company.
Justice Martin dismissed Steve Marsh’s claim that his land was contaminated by (GM) canola grown by his neighbor. Marsh filed his appeal on the 18th of June and the appeal will be heard in the next six to twelve months before the court of appeal made up of three judges.
The National Association of Sustainable practices has expressed its dissatisfaction with the trial court ruling as Justice Martin found the decertifaction was erroneous as the court found no risk of GM contamination. In a strongly worded statement the NASAA expressed its support for Marsh and specified that the Court’s decisions not to recognize NASAA’s decertfication as warranted mandated the need for a legislative standard for GM tolerance threshold.
The Australian Safe Food Foundation is backing Marsh’s appeal and released a statement acknowledging the validity of NASAA’s decertification action and that further legislative action was required.Scott Kinnear from the Safe Food Foundation commented on the appeal:
“Win or lose, The Safe Food Foundation believes farmer protection legislation is 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.”
“The Safe Food Foundation wants to see legislation that requires GM farmers to meet strict rules designed to stop contamination. In addition a compensation fund paid for by the GM industry is needed to pay out damages suffered from GM contamination where no individual GM farmer can be identified as being at fault.”
“SFF hopes that the court of appeal will recognize that Steve was owed a duty of care and that NASAA made a valid decision to decertify Steve in the context of a well recognised international system. NASAA operates a system of certification audited by AQIS and complies with an organic standard likewise signed off by AQIS. This system and standard is used by Australia for third party government to government recognition of organic product exported from Australia.”