Neighbours agree on GM buffer

Kate PollardCountryman

Two neighbours embroiled in Australia's first organic versus genetically modified canola legal case have agreed to a 1.1km buffer for this season.

GM canola grower Mick Baxter was issued a Supreme Court writ in April by his neighbour Steve Marsh, an organic grower who wants damages for the loss of his organic status.

An injunction to protect the organic farm from future contamination was also sought as part of the writ.

Slater and Gordon partner Mark Walter confirmed an interim injunction was sought last month and said both parties had consented to orders for a 1.1km buffer.

"It will stay in place until the matter is dealt before a court. As part of the court proceedings there will be a push for a 2.5km buffer zone," a Slater and Gordon spokeswoman said.

Safe Food Australia director Scott Kinnear said it was a reality check for parties with vested interests promoting GM crops.

"At trial Mr Marsh will seek a permanent injunction requiring a 2.5km buffer from his organic farm, but the agreed position of a 1.1km buffer without swathing is a good compromise prior to trial," Mr Kinnear said.

"We believe that this agreement confirms what non-GM farmers have been saying all along - that a five-metre buffer zone is inadequate.

"This position was put forward 10 years ago in the development of the GM cropping protocols and was ignored."

Monsanto and lobby group Pastoralists and Grazers Association (PGA) say the grains industry's existing five-metre buffer zone has been working.

"There have been many hundreds of thousands of tonnes of non-GM canola harvested, delivered and marketed over the past couple of years without issue, so both the buffers and the post farmgate segregation practices have been successful," Monsanto corporate affairs lead Keryn McLean said.

PGA Western Graingrowers chairman John Snooke said there had been no changes to the existing buffer zone of 5m.

"Steve Marsh's neighbour, Mick Baxter, has broken no laws and has complied with all of the requirements for growing GM crops," he said.

Mr Snooke said Mr Marsh should instead sue his organic accreditation body, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia, for withdrawing his certification.

"They are the ones who have been negligent throughout this whole issue by refusing to accept the same standards for the presence of GM as they do with chemical residue,"he said.

_Countryman _ contacted Mr Baxter's lawyer, Brian Bayly, from Bradley Bayly, for comment.

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