Article on The Safe food Foundation Website
Lately, genetically manipulated (GM) food has been a widely covered subject in the media in Australia and around the World. As with all agricultural practices, health and safety must be first priority when making decisions on how our farmland should be cultivated and GM is no different. There are many reasons to investigate what GM in our food supply will mean in relation to health and safety but these are not the only calls for possible concern. Lest we forget, our freedom of choice is compromised by GM when such crops run rampant and contamination is uncontrolled. When GM crops are grown next to non-GM crops we often see issues of contamination. This contamination may be due to many factors including human error, wind, birds, bees and floods and can result in a widespread and unintentional cultivation of GM crops. Allowing such contamination to continue means the loss of a farmer’s right to grow what they choose and the consumer’s choice to purchase and consume GM-free foods. To accept the takeover of our farmland by patented, corporate-owned seeds is to take the land from the farmers and the people and willing give it to the corporations.
In the farming community of Kojonup, WA, organic farmer Steve Marsh is taking a stand against GM contamination. In 2010, the WA state government lifted the moratorium on GM canola, opening up the state’s agricultural sector to the cultivation of this GM crop for the first time. As a result of this change in policy many farmers, including Marsh’s next door neighbour, began growing GM canola. After a high wind, one day Steve found GM canola dried plants spread over much of his farm, loaded with dry seed falling off onto his land. Consequently, Steve lost his organic certification when the certifying body, NASAA (The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia) found 70 percent of his property had been contaminated with GM canola.
As a result of the contamination, Steve and his family are no longer able to sell their product on the organic market and have lost a great deal of their income. It’s shocking to think we live in a world where corporations are often free from responsibility in relation to their products infringing the rights of others. However, due to the liability agreement Monsanto has farmers sign, the corporate giant is ‘off the hook’ when it comes to cases of contamination. Thus, Australia is set to see the first case of an organic farmer proactively seeking compensation from a GM farmer when his rights have been violated by a biotech invasion. This is something that Steve does not want to do but he has no other option if he wants to stand up for his rights as well as ours. Due to inadequate labeling, often the only way to eat foods free from GM is to eat organic. This makes Steve’s case and the contamination of the organic industry an issue beyond labeling. Once our organic food supply is contaminated, reading a label won’t make a difference because ALL food will contain GM!
So instead of accepting this adulteration of his farmland, Steve has taken a stand against the invasion of genetically modified crops. In an unprecedented case, Steve is taking his neighbour to court for compensation of loss and damages. The international law firm of Slater & Gordon has taken on the case under their public interest policy (good on them!) but that does not entirely relieve the financial stress of this case as there will be a great deal of disbursements in fighting such a legal battle. Money is needed for barristers, court costs and expert witnesses and this is expected to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For more information about Steve Marsh and this precedent-setting case against GM and food contamination, please visit The Safe Food Foundation.