High profile GM court case in spotlight at Henty Machinery Field Days

September 24, 2014


WA organic farmer Steve Marsh.

The Supreme Court trial between two Western Australian farmers that polarised the nation over the use of genetically modified crops will be under the spotlight at the Henty Machinery Field Days.

In May, the WA court rejected organic farmer Steve Marsh’s claim his land was contaminated by genetically modified canola grown by his neighbour, conventional farmer Michael Baxter.

Mr Marsh is set to be a keynote speaker at the Agri-Centre at 9.30am across the three days.

The landmark case was the first where an organic farmer proactively sought compensation from a GM farmer following organic crop contamination by wind-borne GM canola seed.

Steve and his wife Sue will be accompanied to the field days by Network of Concerned Farmers national spokesperson Julie Newman.

The network is a farmer based lobby group campaigning for a strict liability regime to ensure the patent owner, not either the GM or non-GM farmer, is liable for any economic loss caused by GM contamination.

Ms Newman attended each day of the two week WA hearing and blogged her own record of the court proceedings.

Berrigan grain grower Gai Marshall was among many farmers around the nation to follow Julie’s daily blogs.

She began studying GM crops nine years ago, travelling to Canada to collate nine hours of video footage featuring GM farmers and research scientists to produce a self-funded one-hour documentary titled, “GM Corporate Control”.

Mrs Marshall has gathered a network of growers from central NSW to the Victorian border interested in sustainable farming to fund the visit to the field days by Mr and Mrs Marsh and Ms Newman.

“We have been questioning the advantage of GM technology – there are many farmers who prefer to sit back and watch others diving in head first,’’ she said.

“In my opinion, they are not making a profit from GM technology as it is still a failure in drought and frost.

“Mother Nature is slowly beating this technology with resistance forming, requiring more new chemicals.’’

Mrs Marshall said mono cropping was a recipe for disaster with dual-purpose crops, livestock, crop rotations and fallowing essential to control herbicide resistance.

“On our farm, we have been using stubble mulching and direct drilling for more than 30 years – along with now also disc seeding, and in the last few years we have limited synthetic fertiliser use in favour of biological treatments,’’ she said.

The couple grow vetch, lupins or peas as a break crop rather than canola.

“Lucerne and clover pastures also play a large part in our livestock program with the rotations helping spell a number of the paddocks to guard against resistant weeds,’’ Mrs Marshall said.

“Our collective of sustainable farmers are extremely interested in bringing Steve Marsh to NSW to hear exactly what was involved so we can understand this process.

“We welcome organic, conventional and GM growers to hear Steve speak at Henty so every farmer can be fully aware of the implications of GM technology.

“Our group of farmers are drawn from the cropping, livestock and horticultural industries, and we simply aim to be custodians of our land.’’