“Organic Farmer Dealt Final Blow In Landmark Lawsuit Over Monsanto’s GMO Contamination”- (Ecowatch)

Bloody hell, it never ends with these people, does it?!

Ill get right into it. Today I am picking apart another Ecowatch piece.

Organic Farmer Dealt Final Blow In Landmark Lawsuit Over Monsanto’s GMO Contamination

Steve Marsh, an organic farmer in Western Australia, has lost his final bid in his landmark genetic modification contamination lawsuit against his neighboring farmer, Michael Baxter, who planted Monsanto’s genetically modified (GMO) canola.

Marsh claimed that he lost organic certification on approximately 70 percent of his property in Kojonup, Perth after winds carried his neighbor’s Roundup Ready canola seeds onto his farm in 2010.

Australia has a zero-tolerance organic standard concerning GMO contamination on organic lands and Marsh sought $85,000 in damages against his neighbor and former childhood friend.

Marsh lost the lawsuit in a May 2014 ruling from the Supreme Court of Western Australia and was ordered instead to pay court costs of about $804,000. He appealed the decision to the West Australian court of appeal but in September, the court instead ruled in favor of Baxter.

Today, after six years of legal wrangling, the High Court rejected Marsh’s bid for leave to appeal against that ruling.

The sad element of this story is that the 2 farmers involved were once friends. And its said that this problem could have easily been fixed had Marsh (organic farmer) simply gone to Baxter (GM farmer) about the issue and made arrangements (to pick the unwanted seedlings). But instead, Marsh choose to go to the media. Chose to begin a landmark lawsuit guaranteed to garner international attention with all the right people.

This is the kind of person we are dealing with.

I will borrow some quotes from an Australian farming publication in order to shed more light on the case, and some background.

MIKE Baxter’s anger at his lifelong neighbour – and distant relative by marriage – Steve Marsh for dragging him through a heart-wrenching three-and-a-half year legal battle will take considerable time to dissolve.

The high profile legal conflict was billed as a world-first test-case for an organic farmer pursuing litigation against another farmer for growing genetically modified (GM) crops.

But the campaign’s subtext revealed a more intimate personal story where ongoing uncertainty and pressures contributed to Mr Baxter’s marriage ending, while dividing loyalties and testing friendships within the small Kojonup community in south-west Western Australia.

Mr Baxter largely shied away from the media spotlight, eschewing the opportunity to reject accusations made against his family and farming professionalism.

Despite the vocal sustained campaign against GM crops, the WA Supreme Court ruled comprehensively in Mr Baxter’s favour, rejecting Mr Marsh’s claims for $85,000 in compensation from losing his organic certification in late 2010 when GM canola was detected on his farm.

Justice Ken Martin court ruled Mr Baxter followed the prescribed stewardship rules in planting his GM canola crop with added buffer zones and therefore wasn’t negligent.

The judge also rejected Mr Marsh’s application for a permanent injunction to stop Mr Baxter growing or swathing GM canola in future.

GM canola was declared to be a safe, legal product and any assertion of “contamination” or potential harm to the organic farmer was rejected. However, the judgment was scathing of the flawed processes and procedures underpinning Mr Marsh’s organic certifying body, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia, which has a zero tolerance to GM material.

“I was impressed by Mr Baxter’s direct and no-nonsense answers to questions and, in particular, his willingness on occasion to make concessions against himself,” the judgment said.

But Justice Martin said trial evidence showed Mr Marsh had “increasing concerns” about the prospect of GM legislation in WA.

“His concerns seem to have intensified throughout 2008 into 2009, prior to the growing of GM canola being made lawful in WA from mid-January 2010,” he said.

“The process of Mr Marsh’s cross-examination across day two and into day three of the trial, exposed Mr Marsh as particularly anxious about a possible future adventitious entry of GMOs to Eagle Rest.

“From about late 2008 ongoing concerns manifested in Mr Marsh becoming, as I assessed his evidence, increasingly fatalistic and anxious about GMOs reaching Eagle Rest and allied financial losses this would cause to him and his wife.

“Assessing his evidence overall, I thought that there presented in Mr Marsh what I would see as an almost self-fulfilling, high-level anxiety from GMOs. This anxiety was increasingly observable up to late 2010, in his correspondence and interactions with people, including the Minister for Agriculture (Mr Redman) and in communications to NASAA and NCO (mostly to Ms Stephanie Goldfinch).”

About 12 months after the original incursion, only eight GM canola plants germinated on the organic farm and were pulled out of the ground by Mr Marsh, the judgment said.

Those eight plants “posed no genetic contamination threat to any other crop or plant species at Eagle Rest as the scientific evidence earlier discussed makes very clear”, the judgment read.

The judgment also panned Mr Marsh’s response to discovery of 245 canola swathes on his farm saying, “Surprisingly, it appears to have taken Mr Marsh until April 2011 to gather up and remove all the swathes and their (attached) canola seed pods”.

“In this period the 245 swathes appear to have been rather afforded the status of infamous celebrities – fenced off and then made the subject of media releases or general publicity,” it said.

“Asked in cross-examination why it took so long to gather up and remove the canola swathes, Mr Marsh, I thought, gave a very unconvincing response for the inertia. He said that he had been ‘too busy’.

“Part of what supposedly occupied his time appears to have been issuing media statements in liaison with NASAA. That is hardly an acceptable explanation.

“Part of what supposedly occupied his time appears to have been issuing media statements in liaison with NASAA. That is hardly an acceptable explanation.

“If there was a serious incursion problem of GM material at Eagle Rest to be dealt with, as Mr Marsh evidently felt there was, clearly it ought to have been addressed immediately, as a matter of high priority, rather than the swathes just being left to blow around in the paddocks of Eagle Rest for a period of about five months.”

Mr Baxter said that intense orchestrated public pre-trial campaigns made him and his family out “to be criminals”.

“Right from the start it was pretty annoying,” he said.

“The first place we really heard about it was in the media when they were slandering us saying ‘the GM farmer has contaminated his neighbour’.

“It was in the news every hour and it was the hot topic of the moment and in all of the papers and it was all really slandering us, as if we were criminals.

http://www.farmonline.com.au/news/agriculture/cropping/general-news/sue-thy-neighbour-gm-case-leaves-scars/2701488.aspx

I think this says it all really. Yet another situation in which the portrayal of the poor organic farmers being screwed over by the GMO seeding CRIMINALS, is a joke.

There is one more aspect of this story that I want to cover however. From the Ecowatch piece:

Incidentally, Monsanto admitted last year that it financially supported Baxter’s legal defense.

“Although we were not a party to the litigation, we respect Michael and Zanthe Baxter’s choice to defend themselves. Their neighbor initiated a legal claim against them when they were responsibly growing a safe and legal crop, as was clearly established in the Supreme Court’s verdict,” Monsanto Australia’s managing director Daniel Kruithoff said in astatement.

Shady business, right?

Also from the Ecowatch Article:

“Both farmers were entitled to seek support for this legal dispute so that their arguments could be heard in court. It was only fair that the Baxters received much needed support given the extensive fundraising efforts of Steve Marsh’s supporters. Monsanto Australia contributed to the Baxter’s legal costs to ensure they could defend themselves in court,” Daniel said.

Marsh’s campaign was supported by the Safe Food Foundation, a nonprofit food advocacy group.

Shady dealings?

No.

More like, a company defending a legitimate customer of its product from a well funded and malicious lawsuit that could well have put them (the farmer, and their customer) out of business (not to mention what could happen to other GM farmers if this suit went the wrong way). I call it a malicious suit because Marsh actually attempted to stop Baxter from growing his GM crop, to no avail.

But fortunately, it seems that the courts seen though the smokescreen and ruled logically. Though emotional scars will be lasting between these 2 former friends (and in the community in general), neither farmer is under water financially. The pseudo-journalists may paint Marsh in distress, but he has nothing to worry about. If there is one good thing about gullible, easily frightened idiots and the modern day internet, its crowd funding. It funded Marshes lawsuit. And it will likely ensure he does not go under. I would be surprised if some campaign for this guy isn’t already running.

Thus making this yet another case in which one has to adjust their perspective in terms of who the real villains are.

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