Australia: deep concern after GM court ruling
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
The Organic Federation of Australia (OFA) are deeply concerned for the future of the organics industry after the result for Western Australia organic farmer Steve Marsh, who lost a court battle against neighbour GM canola farmer Michael Baxter for lost income as a result of alleged GM contamination. Steve Marsh not only lost his organic status and his business, but his case now leaves other organic farmers completely vulnerable. In response, the federation has highlighted two critical aspects of the ruling and the implications for the organic industry.
Australia now has no legal protections in place for organic farmers whose crops are contaminated with GM seeds. This puts many farmers at risk whose properties border other farms growing GM crops. This is contrary to laws already in place which protect farmers from contaminating sprays from neighbouring farms. These chemical trespassing or spray drift laws are designed to protect farmers from pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers from adjacent properties. In the same way that sprays are a contaminant, from the perspective of an organic grower, GM seeds are also a contaminant. They compromise the integrity of the farm and disrupt the important ecological balance which forms the foundation of an organic system. The court ruling did not recognize this critical point. This ruling will have a flow on effect. If farmers can easily lose their organic status from GM contamination from neighbouring properties, the economic costs for the industry could be catastrophic. For every farmer who loses his organic certification, the lost business will be crippling.
This loss not only hurts the farmer but it also impacts on the overall national economy. Organic farming has consistently proven to as be a valuable economic and environmental resource for Australia, growing at 12% per year and now with a value of AUD655m (€447m). Countries around world, including several Asian countries and most of the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Brazil, New Zealand and several states and counties around the USA and have a complete ban on the importation of certain GM produce. This means farmers who grow GM are limited to export countries that allow GM produce and organic farmers could lose valuable markets if their land is contaminated. The consistent increase in organic food production has been mostly driven by community demand. Compared to conventional farming, organic produce is a higher value commodity and the supply chains for organic produce are not as widely dominated by a select group of multinational corporations. This means farmers get a higher return and are in greater control of their distribution channels. More information is available from Organic Federation of Australia.
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