PGA attacks Marsh appeal ideology

Rueben HaleCountryman
Steve Marsh
Camera IconSteve Marsh Credit: The West Australian

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association has accused Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh and his supporters of being "ideologically driven" on their opposition to the genetic modification industry.

The PGA made the comments after Mr Marsh and his lawyers last week sent the Marshes' neighbour Michael Baxter and his lawyers a full-written submission substantiating a basis to appeal a Supreme Court decision to reject an $85,000 claim for damages by the Marshes against Mr Baxter after GM canola pods blew onto Mr Marsh's Kojonup property in 2010.

The PGA had been a long-time supporter of Mr Baxter and the GM industry.

Mr Marsh also sought a permanent injunction preventing Mr Baxter from planting GM canola crops, which was also rejected by the Court.

In June, Mr Marsh and lawyers lodged an appeal.

It is now up to Mr Baxter and his lawyers to respond to the submission within 45 days.

PGA Western Graingrowers chairman John Snooke told Countryman he believed Mr Marsh's appeal would attempt to argue Supreme Court judge Justice Kenneth Martin's finding against Mr Marsh that his neighbour MrBaxter had breached an asserted duty of reasonable care owed to the Marshes to ensure there was no escape of GM material into Eagle Rest was an "opinion" and didn't relate to common law.

"Steve Marsh and his supporters don't want to acknowledge the facts because they're ideologically opposed to the GM industry, and therefore they're choosing to attack a ruling that the judge has given," he said.

"Mr Marsh and his supporters have always run this issue as a media campaign and they are now choosing to ignore the findings of the Supreme Court.

"Therefore, Mr Marsh has ignored the facts presented to him throughout the case and continues to ignore the facts after the Supreme Court has made its judgment."

Mr Snooke said the PGA held the view that the judge executed the Marsh vs Baxter case in a "thoroughly professional manner".

"We fully expected an appeal would be forthcoming from Mr Marsh and continue to have faith in the Australian legal system," he said.

"However, in regards to Steve Marsh supporters, the finding of the law in this instance has not suited their agenda."

Mr Snooke also said it was his understanding no new evidence could be given and the Court would just review the evidence presented at the original trial.

Anti-GM campaigner Julie Newman, who is acting as a spokeswoman for Mr Marsh, has accused Mr Snooke of being "misleading with his comment" regarding the case.

Ms Newman,who is also the national spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers, said the evidence and transcripts were publicly available and confirmed no evidence was put at trial by the plaintiffs and/or the defendants on the safety of GM canola.

"The case was not about the safety of GM canola, it was about who was liable for the economic loss caused by contamination of GM canola," she said. "Mr Marsh did everything he could to rectify the contamination and limit the economic loss.

"Mr Baxter could and should have grown his GM canola away from the boundary and/or not swathed it as all farmers know that swathed canola crops move in the wind."

Ms Newman questioned why GM farmers should not be liable for economic loss they caused.

"This matter should never have gone to court as the State Government were made aware of unfair liability and should have put in liability legislation to protect non-GM farmers," she said.

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