Threats prompt GM rethink

Source: The Land, by Colin Bettles

12 December, 2012

LITIGATION threats are forcing biotechnology campaigner Bill Crabtree to rethink his approach to the controversial topic, and call for greater backing and public advocacy from leading farm lobby groups.

Mr Crabtree is one of several individuals and organisations to have received defamation threats from the Safe Food Foundation (SFF) and scientist Dr Judy Carman in recent months.

The threats are in relation to varying claims, seeking differing levels of financial damages and potential legal costs, however, each case is underpinned by escalating common conflict between the different camps over genetically modified (GM) cropping technology.

In 2005, the West Australian government funded $92,000 to the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER) in Adelaide to conduct animal feeding trials of GM canola, headed by Dr Carman.

Dr Carman has been criticised by Mr Crabtree and other outspoken biotechnology campaigners for failing to publicly report or publish the results of the IHER study in peer reviewed scientific journals, despite repeated requests.

The issue flared up again in September when Dr Carman was linked to claims GM wheat may cause a strain of liver damage that especially endangers the lives of young children.

The claims were contained in a media statement from the SFF which quoted Dr Carman as an expert scientific opinion.

The SFF and its director Scott Kinnear are also central to another high profile anti-GM campaign, over the alleged contamination of Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh’s wheat crop from GM canola growing on the farm of his neighbours, Mick and Zanthe Baxter.

Mr Marsh is being represented in his legal challenge by Slater and Gordon Lawyers with backing from Mr Kinnear’s organisation and other anti-GM groups.

Speaking to Fairfax Agricultural Media, Mr Kinnear confirmed having sent letters threatening defamation against various groups and individuals.

But he said, “I do not have any comment as to the precise nature of who and what they contained”.

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