in your basket.
GM contamination battle lines drawn with ORGANIC Farmers
This article is by the OFC posted today which we repost here due to its importance for the future of Organics in Australia:
The Organic Federation of Australia are deeply concerned for the future of the organics industry after the result this week for WA organic farmer Steve Marsh, who lost a court battle against neighbour GM canola farmer Michael Baxter for lost income as a result of alleged GM contamination.
In response, we would like to highlight two critical aspects of the ruling and the implications for the organic industry.
Contamination is contamination
Australia now has no legal protections in place for organic farmers whose crops are contaminated with GM seeds. This puts many farmers at risk whose properties border other farms growing GM crops.
This is contrary to laws already in place which protect farmers from contaminating sprays from neighbouring farms. These ‘chemical trespassing’ or ‘spray drift’ laws are designed to protect farmers from pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers from adjacent properties.
In the same way that sprays are a contaminant, from the perspective of an organic grower, GM seeds are also a contaminant.
They compromise the integrity of the farm and disrupt the important ecological balance which forms the foundation of an organic system. The court ruling did not recognize this critical point.
Exports will suffer
This ruling will have a flow on effect. If farmers can easily lose their organic status from GM contamination from neighbouring properties, the economic costs for the industry could be catastrophic. For every farmer who loses his organic certification, the lost business will be crippling.
This loss not only hurts the farmer but it also impacts on the overall national economy. Organic farming has consistently proven to as be a valuable economic and environmental resource for Australia, growing at 12 percent per year and now with a value of $655 million.
Countries around world, including several Asian countries and most of the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Brazil, New Zealand and several states and counties around the USA and have a complete ban on the importation of certain GM produce. This means farmers who grow GM are limited to export countries that allow GM produce and organic farmers could lose valuable markets if their land is contaminated.
The consistent increase in organic food production has been mostly driven by community demand. Food is perceived to be more nutritious and tastier when grown using ecologically sustainable methods.
Compared to conventional farming, organic produce is a higher value commodity and the supply chains for organic produce are not as widely dominated by a select group of multinational corporations. This means farmers get a higher return and are in greater control of their distribution channels.
As a country, why would we not want to protect such a valuable resource?
Conventional farming is also deceptively expensive: most of the farming systems are based on high inputs of expensive fuel, fertilizer, chemicals, and machinery. Economies of scale make these production methods efficient but not necessarily more so than organics if this method were given the same subsidies and support as conventional monoculture farming.
Steve Marsh not only lost his organic status and his business, but his case now leaves other organic farmers completely vulnerable.
Where to now?
Look to the United States where over 70 percent of food consumed is sourced from GM crops.
Monsanto, the very company who provided the seeds grown by the defendant, has a litigious longhistory of suing farmers who are found to have Monsanto crops growing on their land, even if these crops are contamination from neighbouring properties.
In fact, it was reported recently that a third of U.S. organic farmers have experienced problems in their fields as a result of nearby use of genetically modified crops. Over half of those growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GMO contamination.
This worrying trend should be a wake-up call to Australian regulators should they continue to avoid protecting farmers from GM contamination.
Farmers deserve protection and if they are not legally protected, it compromises a valuable industry, and the livelihoods that go with it.