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Organic Farmer Going to Court Against Monsanto’s GM Crops

Organic Farmer Going to Court Against Monsanto’s GM Crops

This is a guest post by Rachel Dujardin of the Safe Food Foundation.

You may not have heard of Steve Marsh yet, but this Australian farmer could lose everything to protect your right to eat GM-free food.

Steve is an organic farmer from Kojonup, in Western Australia. In 2010, the Western Australian State Government lifted the moratorium on GM canola/rapeseed, allowing cultivation of this GM crop for the first time. As a result of this change in policy, many farmers, including Steve Marsh’s neighbor, began growing Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) canola/rapeseed. Subsequently Steve’s organic farm was contaminated. As a result of this contamination Steve lost organic certification on 70% of his farm. Steve has since lost a great deal on his premium income and his once profitable livelihood has been decimated.

 

 

Contamination cases like this have been happening globally. Widespread contamination from GM canola/rapeseed has already eliminated organic production of this crop in most areas of Canada. Because co-existence is impossible and contamination will happen, GM companies have a compulsory no-liability agreement clause in each of their contracts with GM farmers. In Canada and the U.S., Monsanto has even sued farmers whose crops have been contaminated for having patented seeds on their farms while not paying royalties.

It just doesn’t make any sense. Farmers are responsible for stock or other animals causing damage to a neighbor’s property but in the case of genetic contamination, the non-GM farmer ends up being liable for the loss and damages.

A Landmark Case About GM Contamination

While contamination from GM canola/rapeseed has had a dramatic impact on Steve and his livelihood, the GM farmer and Monsanto have refused to take responsibility and compensate him for his losses. The Western Australian Government has even said that organic standards are to blame for Steve’s loss, as if to suggest that organic foods should allow contamination by GM. As the only avenue available, Steve is taking his neighbor to court for compensation of loss and damages. This is not something that Steve wanted to do, but he had no other option to protect his right — to protect our right — to farm GM free.

Steve’s suit is the world’s first in which an organic farmer is using the courts to recover loss and damages from a GM farmer. His case has been described as a landmark one that will determine who should take responsibility about GM contamination.

Australia is on track to be the first country in the world to release GM wheat as early as 2017. We export our wheat to the world. It is therefore vital to establish responsibility for GM contamination before GM wheat is grown. If Steve wins, his case will set a precedent regarding the application of common law to GM contamination events and will be of interest to lawmakers worldwide.

There are more and more independent peer-reviewed studies showing the health risks of GM crops. We don’t want to be part of the global GM experiment underway with barely tested, unlabeled and uncontrolled GM foods infiltrating our food supplies. When people like Steve stand up for his right in spite of what he may lose, it gives us a chance to stand up with him.

Steve’s case is due to start on the 10th of February 2014 in the Western Australian Supreme Court and is scheduled to run for three weeks. His neighbor is being financially supported by pro-GM Australian lobby group, the Pastoralists & Graziers Association. The international law firm of Slater & Gordon Lawyers has taken on Steve’s case under their public interest policy but there are still many other costs necessary for barristers, court costs and expert witnesses — costs which could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Steve could not take this case without our support; that is why the Safe Food Foundation is coordinating fundraising and communicating his story to raise awareness internationally. The outcome of Steve’s case will set a precedent for the future of non-GM farming and, ultimately, affect our choice as consumers for what we eat. If a farmer doesn’t get to choose what he grows, how can we choose what we eat?

Steve is standing up for what he believes in but he cannot do it alone. If you believe farmers should have the right to produce GM-free food which ultimately equals your right to eat it, if you believe the GM-free farmer should not be the one responsible to pay the cost of contamination, please sign the pledge to support GM-free food.

 

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Photo of Steve Marsh on his farm courtesy of The Safe Food Foundation

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231 comments

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10:01AM PST on Feb 10, 2014

One said using GMO uses more chemical, but do have to remember the concentration and it's effect on the soil. Many of the conventional weed control in some crops remains in the soil for 3 to 18 months even though use only 5 to 16 oz/ac 2 to 3 times per season, turns a green soybean crop yellow/brown versus using 28 to 32 oz/ac roundup 2 times per season, does no harm to crop and roundup breaks down fast in soil to soil microbes.

2:31AM PST on Feb 10, 2014

Ros G. The additional paperwork involved to do the labeling is immense and would increase the cost for the consumers. You ask about farming, I am one. I am not supported by monsanto, but have nothing against GMO. I will raise whatever I see fit, use product that will not harm the crop yet control pests. I at one time grew NON GMO but no longer nor will I go back to it. What is needed to control weeds also damages the crop and has only fair control on weeds. If weed seeds are in a crop and get into grain elevator or terminal the farmer gets discounted. What I want in a crop is to be able to raise it as cheap as possible and get as good of a crop as possible, using breeding programs to increase disease resistance. Non GMO using conventional herbicides do damage yields. Organic as a whole is not feasible as one farmer found out here. half yield of surrounding fields, high transportation costs and hefty discounts for his crops only to make a few bucks more per bushel just doesn't cut it. (soybeans.. GMO 38bu ac NON GMO 28 bu ac Organic 18 bu ac. you decide what's best and why we grow what we grow)

4:28PM PST on Feb 9, 2014

Can't believe it....Organic is the reason Marsh is in this predicament. Give me a break. Sounds like the Aussie government has already been bought off.

4:35PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

Went to beavers saving Chevron by containing oil slick and possibly dieing for their courage.

Petition still not working.

3:18PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

Reported in help section with http://www.care2.com/causes/organic-farmer-going-to-court-against-monsantos-gm-crops.html#comment-6034364 added. Came back, tried again, it's still thinking.

3:13PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

Signed another petition. Came back and the petition is still thinking about accepting my signature.

3:10PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

Petition has reappeared but is not registering. Will try again in another minute. LOL Just trying to out maneuver the computer system.

3:08PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

Oops, now the petition has disappeared. Will try again in a minute. Sometimes it just takes one more minute to load...

3:07PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

I'm rooting for you Steve Marsh. I love a good fight and I am throwing my hat in with you as soon as I can get the petition to take. I have only tried 3 times now.

Spammers flagged. Please remove. Thank you.

12:33PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

My best to him!

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