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GM court ruling questioned

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

The landmark case of Marsh v Baxter has attracted the attention of the Curtin University law school, which analysed the case in light of the implications for nuisance, negligence and pure economic loss, and stated "some aspects of Justice Kenneth Martin's decision are open to question".

Authored by lecturer Anna Bunn and associate lecturer Michael Douglas, the 23-page report is titled Breaking New Ground? Nuisance, negligence and pure economic loss in Marsh v Baxter.

The report critically assesses the aspects that led to Justice Martin's ruling in favour of Kojonup farmer Michael Baxter, whose GM canola drifted onto the property of neighbouring farmer Steve Marsh, causing him to lose his organic certification.

Justice Martin dismissed both causes of action against Mr Baxter - common law negligence involving the breach of a duty to ensure there was no escape of GM material, and the tort of private nuisance.

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The report's authors analysed the case and concluded the previous court decision, and attention it received, put GM farmers on notice that organic farmers were particularly vulnerable to incursions of GM material, even where there was no genetic contamination.

The authors said in their conclusion, although the outcome of the coming appeal was far from certain, they believed the Court of Appeal should differ with Justice Martin on some points of law.

Mr Marsh's appeal is due to be heard in the Court of Appeal in late March. He faces court costs of up to $800,000 if his appeal is unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, internationally-renowned research scientists Professor Don Huber and Judy Carman will visit WA to speak about soils, seeds and safety at public events to be held at Dowerin on February 22 and West Perth on February 23.

Professor Huber is Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University in Indiana and will speak on the connection between crop health and good plant nutrition focusing on rising problems linked to intensive use of glyphosate and genetically modified crops.

Ms Carman is an epidemiologist and biochemist and is the Director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research based in South Australia. She is recognised by the United Nations as an expert in risk assessment of GM organisms and her reports have been slated by GM supporters.

Professor Huber and Ms Carman are invited to WA by Slow Food Perth, FOODwatch and the GM-Free Australia Alliance.

The events will be held on Sunday, February 22 at 1pm at the Dowerin Community Club, and on Monday, February 23 at 6pm at City West Lotteries House.

Tickets are $10 at the door. Further inquiries to Janet on 0420 820 713 or email foodwatchwa@gmail.com .

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