Steve Marsh is an organic farmer from Kojonup Western Australia. In December 2010 Steve, had genetically modified (GM) canola seeds blown onto his property from a neighbouring farm. Approximately 70 percent of Mr Marsh’s property is now contaminated. His organic certification has been suspended by the certifying body, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (Inc), putting his livelihood and whole harvest into limbo.
Fortunately Steve had taken precautions to declare his property GM free and had gone to the expense of setting up signs and getting legal advice. He has consequently started a legal action against his GM neighbour following confirmation of GM contamination from the WA Dept of Agriculture. GM giant Monsanto has stated that it will support the GM famer’s legal action and the Pastoralists & Graziers Association (WA) Inc has agreed to pay the respondent neighbours legal fees. Monsanto, the main company responsible for developing and promoting GMOs, has insisted on “no-liability” agreements with participating farmers, making the company immune from persecution or liability for any “fall out” from its products.
What is the Steve Marsh Benefit Fund?
The Steve Marsh Benefit Fund has been established in order to raise funds to assist Steve sustain his legal fees, whilst the action continues. The participants in this campaign are organic farmers; NASAA (WA); the West Australian Green party; the GM Network and a large number of Australian consumers who have overwhelmingly rejected GM foods here. Steve Marsh has very bravely taken this course knowing that he may well have to sell his farm and we don’t want him to have to do this. This is a test case and the result will have a huge influence on the future of organics in this state and the whole of Australia.
Donate to the Fighting Fund
Bendigo Bank 114 Avon Terrace York , WA , 6302
Account Name: NASAA (WA) Inc GM Contamination Fund
Account Number: 141944298
The Safe Food Foundation is now coordinating fundraising support for the legal expenses of Steve Marsh, an organic farmer from Kojonup, Western Australia,
whose farm was contaminated by genetically modified (GM) canola in late 2010.
Steve has initiated litigation against the GM farmer for loss and damage.
This will be a landmark case that could potentially ensure the rights of non-GM farmers,and the rights of consumers, to choose safe, non-GM foods.
If you support the right of Australian farmers to produce organic, GM-free food – which ultimately equals your right to choose organic food – then please make a tax deductible donation through our joint project and fundraising partner, Friends of the Earth Australia.
Please visit the Steve Marsh Legal Fighting Fund at http://safefoodfoundation.org/wordpress/?page_id=587
Respected food journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, and freelance writer, John Newton, says ”Steve Marsh is a hero” Read more
GM Canola in Western Australia
On 25th January 2010 the Western Australian Liberal government announced their decision to allow commercial cultivation of Genetically Modified (GM) canola. This decision angered many farmers and the public. Media reports suggest some sections of the farming community welcomed the decision, but in its first permitted year in the West, GM canola accounted for just 8% of the total canola plantings
The 2010 season saw approximately 72,000 hectares of GM canola planted over a wide area. The severe winds experienced in February 2011 – which led to bushfire disasters which gained worldwide attention - put millions of hectares of non-GM crop land at risk of contamination from GM canola.
In an appalling abrogation of responsibility, WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman has followed Monsanto’s lead in blaming the organic certifier for Mr Marsh’s losses. This demonstrates the extent to which the minister is an advocate for multinational chemical companies before he is a defender of WA farmers. The property rights of farmers have been trampled in Monsanto’s push to infiltrate and further dominate Australian agriculture. Mr Redman has merely stepped aside and allowed this to happen. In a statement by Mr Redman “…. zero per cent thresholds are unrealistic in biological systems”. Yet on 11 March 2010, when announcing an end to the GM canola ban, he said “the trials proved GM and non GM canola can be segregated and marketed separately. Approximately 22 shires (including 5 out of 8 shires in Redman’s electorate) declared themselves GM free zones, as Minister Redman earlier said he “would honour the wishes” of communities to wanted to remain GM Free. He later reneged on that promise, saying to a group of farmers from Williams who wanted to declare their shire a GM free zone “if I do that for you I would have to do it for everyone”.
Why does GM threaten Organic Food?
People ask why does genetic engineering of food affect organic food, particularly fruit and vegetables. Bee Winfield from Merri Bee Organic Farm tells us why:
“All things are connected on integrated mixed farms like PolyFace (Joel Salatin) and Merri Bee. You should see our cauliflowers grown without compost. They are golf ball size. What I’m saying is our fruit and vegetables rely on the constant input of composted manure. Manure from G.M. fed animals is banned for use in organic production. Most big growers rely on purchased organic compost made with animal waste products that would otherwise pollute. Interestingly, Sir Albert Howard found out in 1942 that although compost can be made without animal input, the plants it is applied to grow well but do not have the resistance to insect and disease attack that animal products and remains in compost confers to plants. Animal -less farming is unnatural and difficult. On our farm, chooks and pigs are our peak oil ploughs and rotary hoes.
Without organic grain like Steve Marsh’s we have no pigs and chooks. Even if we were to give up selling bacon and eggs and just have sheep and cows for their manure and meat (they don’t strictly NEED grain), our paddocks are full of wild radish which will become GM in time as it crosses with GM canola . So there goes organic beef and lamb. In the US, GM alfalfa is taking over. Just give it a few years to get here, and that’s your hay and mulch material gone. Perhaps your bees have gone AWOL as well because of learning difficulties due to GM. All brassica vegetables are in danger of becoming GM through hybridization if their seeds are grown near GM canola or GM brassica weeds. What are brassica vegetables? Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, rocket, pak choy, bok choy, mizuna, radish, turnip, swede, kholrabbi, kale, watercress, nasturtium.”
Organic Food and Climate Change
Since 1990 the market for organic products in USA has grown from nothing, reaching US$55 billion in 2009 according to Organic Monitor (www.organic monitor.com). This demand has driven a similar increase in organically managed farmland. Approximately 37,000,000 hectares (91,000,000) acres worldwide are now farmed organically.
Organic farming is predicted to be Australia’s biggest growth industry this year as health and environmental concerns drive an estimated 14 per cent increase on its $416 million revenue last year. Economic analyst from IBIS World, Robert Bryant, said “demand for organic products had increased steadily over the past five years and the strong growth was supported by major retailers such as Coles, Woolworths and MacDonalds”. Organic farming revenue is expected to increase more than $58 million to $475 million this year, 2011.
“Organic agriculture emphasises closed nutrient cycles, biodiversity and effective soil management providing the capacity to mitigate and even reverse the effects of climate change. Organic agriculture decreases fossil fuel emissions and sequesters carbon in the soil. The elimination of synthetic nitrogen in organic systems decreases fossil fuel consumption by 33 per cent and carbon sequestration takes CO2 out of the atmosphere by putting it in the soil in the form of organic matter which is often lost in conventionally managed soils. Carbon sequestration occurs at especially high levels in organic no-till managed soil.
Agriculture has been undervalued and underestimated as a means to combat global climate change. Soil carbon data show that regenerative organic agricultural practices are among the most effective strategies for mitigating CO2 emission.” (Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopaedia/Organic Farming)