Hundreds back organic farmer

Natasha BoddyThe West Australian
Hundreds back organic farmer
Camera IconHundreds back organic farmer Credit: The West Australian

About 200 supporters of an organic farmer have attended a public meeting ahead of a landmark court case into genetically modified canola starting tomorrow.

The public meeting in the Perth Town Hall today is for Kojonup farmer Steve Marsh who heads to the Supreme Court tomorrow in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the world.

Farming mates face-off | GM demand soars ahead of trial

Mr Marsh is suing his neighbour Mick Baxter for losses and unspecified damages, alleging GM canola seeds planted on Mr Baxter's farm - and provided by global seed giant Monsanto - blew on to his property.

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The case, lodged in the Supreme Court in 2011, came after the alleged contamination led to the loss of Mr Marsh's organic

certification on about 70 per cent of his land.

Safe Food Foundation director Scott Kinnear likened Mr Marsh's right to grow what he chooses to the public's right to choose what they eat.

"We can go down the industrialised pathway where all the food we eat is patented by global organisations or we can continue to have access to real food- produced by family farmers and grow open-pollinated crops from farmer-saved seed, unlicensed and in the public interest," Mr Kinner said in a statement.

Law firm Slater & Gordon, which is representing Mr Marsh, is providing the legal work on a pro-bono basis under its public interest policy.

Lawyer Mark Walter said the trial was a landmark case that could have implications beyond the organic industry, including conventional farming and consumers.

“As far as we know, this is the first court case of its type anywhere in the world. It will test the legal rights of farmers to choose how and what they farm on their land,” Mr Walter said in a statement.

“The case is about freedom of choice, for both farmers and for consumers. It is important that farmers retain their rights to farm GM-free food as this in turn will protect consumers' ability to purchase GM-free food."

Mr Marsh said he was seeking damages and a permanent injunction to protect his farm from future contamination.

“We have invested a lot of work, time and money over the last decade to become organically certified and help develop our markets,” Mr Marsh said.

“As a result of this GM canola contamination of our land and all the ramifications of that, we have now suffered great financial hardship and an uncertain future.”

Addressing the crowd this morning, Mr Kinnear said it was important to remember there would be no winners out of the case and whichever side lost would likely be left with a large legal bill and a huge impact on their livelihood.

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