Organic Farmer sues over GM contamination

Source @ The Australian – July 28, 2011 – By Amanda O’Brien

A WEST Australian farmer plans to sue his neighbour for allegedly contaminating his organic farm with genetically modified canola in a case that could have national implications. Grain and meat farmer Steve Marsh was stripped of his hard-won organic accreditation over 70 per cent of his property last December. He said the decision forced him to break sales contracts in Australia and overseas.The case will allege his neighbour, Michael Baxter, was negligent in allowing his GM canola to blow on to the property. Mr Baxter could not be contacted yesterday, but the ABC reported earlier this year he intended to defend himself against the claim.

Mr Marsh told The Australian yesterday that his livelihood had been devastated and the dispute had split the farming community southeast of Perth. “The last thing that I want to do is to do this to a neighbour that I grew up with and went to school with . . . but this is a real serious problem we’ve got,” he said. “I have to remove all the GM material and seeds off the property, and when you’ve got hundreds of plants that blow on to your property and each plant has got thousands of seeds on it, how do you remove all those seeds?”

Lawyer Mark Walter from Slater and Gordon would not reveal the size of the damages sought. He said a writ would be lodged in the WA Supreme Court shortly. “This is a landmark case. It will examine the legal rights of farmers to choose how and what they farm on their land,” Mr Walter said.

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