A Case That Takes Away Your Choice For Organic Produce
Do you have a right to GM-free foods? The court says not!
There is a very interesting case going through the courts at the moment that I feel is relevant to our freedom to be able to choose to purchase and consume GM-free foods.
Steve Marsh is a career certified organic farmer in WA. He grows a variety of grains and raises livestock on his farm in Kojonup, which is approximately 3 hours south of Perth. In 2010, the ban on growing GM canola in WA was lifted and commercial cultivation commenced. Steve's neighbour decided to grow Roundup Ready Canola in a field adjacent to Steve's farm.
Roundup Ready Canola is a genetically modified canola developed by biotech giant Monsanto. It is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, most commonly known as Roundup, due to the insertion of 2 bacterial genes. Yum! Glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, is used around the world to kill weeds and grasses that compete with commercial crops. The idea is that a farmer can generously apply Roundup during commercial cultivation of Roundup Ready Canola, without harming the crop, to ensure the canola is not competing with other plant life and to make harvesting more efficient. Think mono-cropping, loss of diversity, impact on wildlife...
Good for Monsanto, who sell the patented Roundup Ready Canola seeds to farmers year after year (farmers are not permitted to retain and use seeds from prior harvests), good for the herbicide manufacturers, as it means farmers can be more liberal in their application of glyphosate without harming the commercial crop, and, on its surface, good for the farmer in terms of efficiency - but what about our health and the environment?
There is wide-spread concern about the safety of GM foods and for good reason - how can we possibly know the long term effects? Also of concern is the lack of regulation around labelling - consumers often do not know if they are consuming GM foods or not - and the shift in power from farmer to biotech giant with the introduction of the "patented seed" business model.
In the case of Steve Marsh, during harvesting, the "heads" of his neighbours Roundup Ready Canola, each containing hundreds or even thousands of GM seeds, blew onto Steve's certified organic farm and contaminated 70% of the land. As a result, organic certification was lost and this had a direct impact on Steve's income. It will take many years to regain his organic status.
Steve has taken his neighbour to court, claiming damages as a result of the contamination. The court has found against Steve, dismissing the case and making him responsible for his neighbours legal costs of more than $800,000. Steve has appealed the decision, but if he loses the appeal, it will mean losing the farm.
The bigger picture
The wider issue is one for the community. If a farmer growing GM crops is not responsible for the contamination of neighbouring non-GM farms from their GM crops, and there is no financial remedy for contamination - the implications are scary. Costs of production of non-GM crops will go up and in the long-term it may become impossible to keep GM crops segregated and our freedom to choose not to consume GM foods will have been lost.
I urge you to take 15 minutes to read more about this issue here and if you feel to, donate to help Steve fight for our freedom. We met Steve outside our local Iggy's bakery where we seriously LOVE to get our organic bread from once a week. We can't take Steve or other organic farmers for granted; we need to support them if we want to have the choice to eat their beautiful produce. I know I do, and many others do too, as seen by the incredible amount of press on this case and outpouring of support for Steve.
Spend 5 minutes of your time watching the below video and see if you agree!