Australia’s First Legal Attack on Monsanto for GM Contamination of Organically Certified Crops

Photo credit: Marie Nirme

Over the Christmas and New Year, whilst people on the east and south of Australia were suffering floods and their consequences, one farmer, much further west, discovered a far more insidious flood was occurring on his property. He is also reeling from the consequences.

Steve Marsh is the farmer of an organic certified property near Kojonup, south-east of Perth in Western Australia. Well, I must correct myself — it is now more accurate to say that he was the farmer of an organic certified property…. In December, Western Australia’s Department of Agriculture conducted tests which confirmed that 70% of Steve’s wheat and oats crops have been contaminated by Monsanto’s Roundup Ready canola, grown on a neighbouring farm. Due to Monsanto’s inability to control the spread of their ‘product’, Steve’s farm has lost its organic certification, and is accordingly facing significant financial losses as a result.

The offending farmer has apparently "complied with his obligation to keep a 5m buffer between his GM crop and the adjoining farm." ( We should know by now that the only way to stop the spread of GMO plants is complete elimination (see also). A bee can carry pollen kilometres in a day. A five metre buffer between GM and non-GM crops is meaningless fine print which only serves to hasten the rapid spread of Big Biotech’s ‘proprietary technology’, and create potentially new captive customers of the same.

Apparently, in addition to the Monsanto mega-corp being willing to bankroll the legal defense of the GM farmers around Steve’s farm, the DFAWA (Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia), who appear to be quite cozy with Monsanto, is responding rather nonchalantly. Instead of this being a wake-up call about the already well documented uncontrollability of GM crops, and its impact on farmers who have a right to grow their own pure strains of plants without fear of such contamination, both Monsanto and the DFAWA are using this tragedy as an opportunity to instead call for a relaxation of organic standards. Instead of respecting farmers’ boundaries and their right to exercise free choice, Monsanto and their buddies are determined to push for GM crops to get let in the door and allowed to wear the organic mantle, next to natural versions!

I would call on farmers and consumers everywhere to get vocal about this. Aside from all the other issues (ethics, environmental and personal health, etc.), farmers will have to deal with the rise of super weeds as herbicide tolerance spreads across the country. (See Who Benefits from GM Crops? The Rise in Pesticide Use PDF.) This tolerance occurs both by plants naturally adapting to chemical overuse, and by horizontal gene transfer of the herbicide resistant trait to both domestic and wild species of related and unrelated plants. Farmers in the USA are now battling super weeds that in some people’s words are being described as the greatest threat to agriculture ever seen.

Listen to the following podcasts to learn more:

ABC Radio Talks to Steve Marsh – January 4, 2011

ABC Radio Talks to Steve Marsh - January 4, 2011

Melbourne’s 3CR Radio talks to organic farmer friend of Steve Marsh, David Kibble – January 11, 2011 (jump to 17:42 to get to the specific interview):

Melbourne's 3CR Radio talks to organic farmer friend of Steve Marsh, David Kibble - January 11, 2011

See also: