Archive for May, 2014


Source: ABC News,

A farmer accused of contaminating his neighbour’s crops with genetically modified canola has won a landmark case in the West Australian Supreme Court.

The decision could have wide-reaching implications for the production of genetically modified crops in Australia.

Michael Baxter was being sued by his neighbour, Steve Marsh, an organic certified farmer who alleged his farm in the Great Southern region was contaminated by GM material blown onto his property from Mr Baxter’s land.

Mr Marsh claimed the contamination caused him to lose his organic certification on more than half his Kojonup property for almost three years.

But Justice Kenneth Martin said Mr Baxter could not be held responsible just for growing a GM crop in a conventional way.

“The end of season winds and the blowing of swathes from Sevenoaks eastwards into Eagle Rest had not been an outcome intended by Mr Baxter,” he said in his judgment summary.

“Even so, no physical injury whatsoever had been sustained at Eagle Rest in consequence.

“Mr Baxter was not to be held responsible as a broadacre farmer merely for growing a lawful GM crop and choosing to adopt a harvest methodology (swathing) which was entirely orthodox in its implementation.”

“No basis in principle was shown to extend the law to these events,” he said.

“Furthermore, Mr Baxter had not been shown to have acted negligently, either by growing or then by swathing the lawfully grown GM crop in 2010.”

Mr Baxter was surrounded by anti-GM protesters as he left court.

He said the decision gave other farmers in Western Australia more certainty.

“It’s a proven product. There’s nothing dangerous about it,” he said.

“It’s perfectly safe, it’s legalised and I think it’s a great thing of the future.”

Despite his victory, Mr Baxter said the court action had taken a heavy toll.

“My marriage was destroyed over it, so hope the next-door neighbour is happy about that,” he said.

Mr Marsh was visibly emotional as he left court and expressed his disappointment in the decision.

“After three-and-a-half years of this it’s been pretty challenging,” he said.

“Obviously we’re disappointed in the judgment given the impacts on our lives.”

He said he needed time to consider the judgment before deciding whether to appeal.

“It’s an issue of choice, isn’t it? Simple as that,” he said.

“There is a lot of implications for agriculture in this decision.”

Farming group welcomes court finding

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association’s John Snooke said the decision gave certainty to the mainstream agricultural industry.

“Farmers are continuing to adopt modern technologies and this allows them to do that at the pace they choose,” he said.




Media release. Source: PG Economics,

Crop biotechnology continues to provide major environmental benefits and allow farmers to grow more, using fewer resources. A majority of these benefits are in developing countries.

‘In the 17th year of widespread adoption, crops developed through genetic modification delivered more environmentally friendly farming practices while providing clear improvements to farmer productivity and income’ said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the repor

‘Half of the farm income gains and the majority of the environmental gains associated with changes in pesticide use and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions occurred in developing countries.’

A few highlights from this comprehensive review are [summarised below]:

  • Crop biotechnology has contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with GM crops;
  • Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2012) by 503 million kg (-8.8%). This is equal to the total amount of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the EU 27 for nearly two crop years;
  • The insect resistant (IR) technology used in cotton and corn has consistently delivered yield gains from reduced pest damage;
  • The herbicide tolerant (HT) technology used in soybeans and canola has also contributed to increased production in some countries;
  • Between 1996 and 2012, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 122 million tonnes of soybeans and 231 million tonnes of corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 18.2 million tonnes of cotton lint and 6.6 million tonnes of canola;
  • GM crops are allowing farmers to grow more without using additional land;
  • The highest yield gains were obtained by farmers in developing countries, many of which are resource-poor and farm small plots of land;
  • The total farm income gain of $116.6 billion was divided equally between farmers in developing and developed countries.


1 May 2014. Source:

 Australian organic standards make GM and organic coexistence difficult: scholar

Coexistence between organic farmers and those that grow genetically modified crops is a big challenge but it is possible in Australia.

That’s according to Nuffield Scholar and Western Australian farmer from Wongan Hills. Jemma Salder.

Supported by the GRDC, Ms Salder recently travelled to a number of countries looking at how the industries worked with each other.

While she says the two can coexist, she suggests the strict zero tolerance standard for the presence of GM material in Australian organic produce may need to be relaxed if the organic industry is to survive.

“I travelled to the US and Canada and it’s dominated by GM crops, but over there the organic farmers are qualified on a process based system, so the presence of GM itself in the end organic product will not affect the status of the organic operation,” she says.

In England she says organic producers had 0.9 per cent tolerance for GM material.

“In Australia organic producers have to adhere to a zero per cent tolerance to the presence of GM at any stage of the production process, it really makes it a difficult tolerance to stick to, zero per cent tolerance in life is almost impossible, especially in agriculture.

“That really places, I think, the organic producers in a difficult position.

“It’s easy to say from the outside looking in, I’m not an organic producer, but I think that a zero per cent tolerance in agriculture is just not sustainable.

“We’ve all got to be flexible, it’s up to them what decisions they make but I think they’ll be perhaps putting their industry at jeopardy if they don’t have a serious look at it.”

She says GM and organic growers in the countries she visited seemed to have a more harmonious relationship than their counterparts in Australia.

“It’s really important that we can make the best business decisions for our properties, but not affect our neighbours as much as we can,” she says.