Organic standard unrealistic, says GM grower

Countryman

Kojonup farmer Mick Baxter is the only farmer out of 300 last year who has been threatened with legal action for allegedly contaminating a certified organic farm with his genetically modified canola.

This year, Mr Baxter and wife Zanthe are among 326 farmers using the technology approved by the Office of Gene Technology Regulator.

For the past seven months, stress levels at the family farm, Seven Oaks, have been high. Mr Baxter has kept a low profile, preferring not to take part in the media debate.

“It’s very stressful on the family and for the kids having to deal with it in the media — just seeing it on television and listening to it on the news and hearing everybody talking about it, ” he said.

“The kids shouldn’t have to go through that sort of stuff.”

But last week, Mr Baxter heard his organic neighbour Steve Marsh and Slater and Gordon lawyer Mark Walter would be lodging a writ in the WA Supreme Court within three weeks. They are claiming negligence and nuisance.

Mr Baxter said allegations and legal threats had been made since January, but no legal documents had been served.

When the alleged contamination occurred, Mr Baxter claimed there was no attempt at mediation over the matter.

“There was no such thing as ringing up or having a chat over the fence like neighbours, ” he said. “From the start, he wasn’t interested in that. He just went straight to lawyers for action.”

Mr Baxter said the only letter he received from Mr Marsh stated an intent to sue if there was any contamination from GM canola.

He said the zero-tolerance standard against GM by the organic industry was unrealistic and unfair to certified organic growers.

“Unless they change their standards, they will end up with no genuine organic growers which is unfair, ” he said.

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