Steve Marsh - final appeal rejected

Gene Ethics Media Release Friday February 12, 2016

High Court rejects leave to appeal over GM contamination

"It is a tragedy that the High Court today rejected Steve Marsh's leave to appeal from the WA Court's judgement in the Marsh vs Baxter case," says Gene Ethics Director, Bob Phelps.

"Steve Marsh deserved a High Court review and we are extremely disappointed by this rejection of his application for leave. He is the West Australian organic farmer who was decertified after Genetically Manipulated (GM) canola blew onto his farm in 2010.

"Carmel McClure, chief judge of the WA Court of Appeal, strongly backed Marsh's case for $85,000 compensation but two other judges disagreed with her so Marsh lost.

"Her incisive judgement offered good prospects for Marsh's appeal to succeed in the High Court, had it been heard.

"Judge McClure found that Marsh's certifier was right to decertify his land, according to federal organic standards, so his compensation claim should have been upheld.

"Marsh's neighbour Baxter had windrowed his GM canola to dry, and it blew onto Marsh's land scattering millions of seeds. Marsh also spoke to Baxter, wrote to him and posted signage on his boundary long before the GM contamination event, warning that GM canola was a hazard to his organic certification and livelihood.

"Mediation before the first trial also failed, refuting Baxter's claim that Marsh could have settled the claim over the fence and a beer. Monsanto indemnified Baxter for his legal costs so he did not negotiate fairly.

"The only course open to Steve Marsh was to sue Baxter or absorb his own losses.

"Our governemts failed us again. When drafting the Gene Technology Act 2001, they said courts and the common law would settle claims of damage from GM contamination. They haven't.

"Marsh's case shows the 98% of Australian organic and conventional farmers who remain GM-free producers are unprotected by the courts and our governments. GM-free export markets in Europe are also at risk even though grain traders have zero tolerance for any GM canola in exports to our biggest market.

"A Farmer Protection Fund, created with a levy of $1/kg on all GM seed sales, would ensure the GM industry always pays for the harm it does.

"Governments must legislate Funds that would automatically pay out any GM affected landholders for proven economic loss, extra costs and harm.

"In bitter battles like Marsh vs Baxter communities are split and there are no winners," Bob Phelps concludes.

Comments: Bob Phelps 03 5968 2996 or 0449 769 066