Wild canola plants cause GM fear

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh has had more problems with paddock contamination.

Mr Marsh, who lost his legal battle against his GM crop-growing neighbour Mike Baxter, said he last week spent three days manually cleaning up canola swathes which have contaminated his property, and will have to pay for testing to ascertain whether the canola is genetically modified.

Mr Marsh claimed the amount of canola swathes which had blown from Mr Baxter’s property were enough to stuff two 180-litre drums. He said he had weighed almost 5kg of seed.

“I have had to clean this up and I’m compelled to report to the certifying body (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia),” he said.

Mr Marsh said it was the third time since (and including) 2010 that canola swathes from the Baxters’ property had contaminated his farm.

Although Mr Marsh cleaned up the swathes, he said it was inevitable seed would have remained on his soils to germinate next year.

He said his neighbour’s swathed paddock had now been harvested, minimising the chance of new swathes coming onto his land.

But Mr Marsh was not confident he had found all existing swathes on his property.

The farmer said two other neighbours — as far as 1.5km from the area — had also found canola swathes on their farms. The canola had also blown through many hundreds of metres of bushland to reach one of the neighbouring properties — demonstrating buffer zones were not effective.

He has not yet received a bill for testing, but Mr Marsh said he paid about $650 for testing on smaller swathes in the past, so expects this bill to be significantly bigger.

“Clearly industry self-regulation, co-existence and freedom of choice have totally failed, given the repeated swathed canola contamination of my farm,” he said.

“However, the then Agriculture Minister Terry Redman is on public record stating GM canola can be segregated from paddock to plate.

“It seems freedom of choice is only for GM farmers and this is discriminatory and anti-competitive against organic and non-GM farmers who wish to stay GM free.”

Mr Marsh lost his organic certification in 2010 after the discovery of swathes of GM canola, which he said blew from Mr Baxter’s farm.

His claim for about $85,000 damages was rejected by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.

In October the State Government repealed the GM Crops Free Areas Act 2003, allowing Federally approved GM crop-growing in WA.

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