Farmer claims GM crops grown on advice of agronomist

Rueben HaleCountryman
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Kojonup farmer Mike Baxter has claimed he was asked to grow GM canola by an agronomist, after falling crop yields due to increasing levels of weed resistance.

Mr Baxter is being sued by his neighbour Steve Marsh for undisclosed damages after GM material allegedly found its way onto Mr Marsh's certified organic farm from Mr Baxter's property.

Taking the stand for the first time in the Supreme Court this week, Mr Baxter said he relied on the advice given by his agronomist to determine what crops would be rotated and which would have livestock put on them.

Cross-examined by Mr Marsh's lawyer, Richard Niall, Mr Baxter said he first raised concerns about his crop problems with the agronomist in 2005.

But Mr Niall told the court Mr Baxter's choice to grow GM canola because of weed resistance was not valid and he was aware that his actions could have caused Mr Marsh to lose his organic certification.

He questioned Mr Baxter about the crop programs he used since 2003, under the supervision of his local agronomist.

"Crop yields were down by 35 per cent, because of weed resistance," Mr Baxter said.

Listing Mr Baxter's crop plans from 2005 to 2009, Mr Niall asked Mr Baxter how he came to the conclusion that he had an issue with weed resistance, when he had only recorded the use of FOP and DIM herbicides on his crop in 2008.

Mr Niall put it to Mr Baxter that he had used the excuse of resistance to justify the use of Roundup Ready canola in 2010.

Asked about his knowledge of organic farming, Mr Baxter said he was aware there were "some" rules which had to be followed to achieve organic status.

The court was told that when Mr Marsh told Mr Baxter that he could lose his certification, it did not deter him from planting his GM crop that year. The trial continues.

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