By: Simon Webster | September 4, 2015
Organic farmer Steve Marsh, who unsuccessfully sued his neighbour after genetically modified (GM) canola blew onto his farm, has lost his appeal against the court’s verdict.
Marsh lost organic certification on about 70 per cent of his 477-hectare grain and sheep farm at Kojonup, Western Australia, after swathes of GM canola blew onto his property in 2010.
Marsh sought damages of $85,000 from his neighbour and childhood friend, Michael Baxter. But the West Australian Supreme Court last year ruled in Baxter’s favour, and ordered Marsh to pay costs of $804,000.
The WA Court of Appeal dismissed Marsh’s appeal against the compensation verdict on Thursday, with a two-to-one decision upholding the verdict. The costs ruling will be handed down in coming weeks after the Marsh team has made submissions.
“I guess what this has demonstrated is that common law does not protect farmers against GM contamination, that's obviously very clear," Marsh said outside the court.
Baxter said he had always been confident he would win. “This should never have even gone to court because between farmers, we should've just had a chat over the fence, had a couple of beers, you know, this would've been all sorted out,” Baxter said.
Agritech multinational Monsanto supported Baxter’s case, while campaign group the Safe Food Foundation supported Marsh.
Safe Food Foundation director Scott Kinnear said Marsh was a hero and would have the foundation’s support if he decided to appeal further.
Monsanto Australia managing director Daniel Kruithoff said in a statement: “The court’s decision is a chance to move beyond this unfortunate legal dispute. The decision reaffirms a farmer’s right to choose how they grow their crops and that organic, conventional and GM crops can be successfully grown side-by-side in Australia."