Joyce welcomes GM case verdict

28 May, 2014 05:13 PM
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
it would have created a precedent that would have been awfully hard for us to deal with
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has expressed relief at today’s verdict in the Marsh v Baxter case in WA, that has found in favour of genetically modified (GM) canola grower Michael Baxter.

Minister Joyce said if the case had found in favour of the plaintiff, organic farmer, Steve Marsh, it could have set a significant precedent.

“The court’s the court and the court has made its decision and made its findings,” he said.

“But to be honest, if it had gone the other way it would have created a precedent that would have been awfully hard for us to deal with, because it would have meant everybody’s responsible for their neighbour and I don’t know how that one was going to work.”

Mr Joyce said there were “huge sensitivities about GM crops” but there was also a strong counter argument.

He said if you believe in GM crops, you wouldn’t believe in Bollgard (GM) cotton, and if you don’t believe in Bollgard cotton “you do believe in spraying crops with (the toxic chemical) endosulfan 17 times a year”.

In a recent interview with Fairfax Agricultural Media, Mr Joyce said the GM debate had to move on from the religious and to the scientific.

He said GM critics had every right to be precautionary and diligent “but if you’re absolute, then you’re really stopping a passage to do incredible things”.

Today, he reiterated the need for science-based decision making.

He said GM “polarises people” but would ultimately be a growing market.

“There will be a premium market for things that are GM-free but I don’t think we can make that call for everybody,” he said.

Mr Joyce said if markets were prepared to pay “an exceptional premium” for non-GM crops, then farmers would grow non-GM crops “and then it’ll work”.

He said it was also preferable if such issues were sorted out between neighbouring farmers, rather than litigating via the courts.

Australian Greens agriculture spokesperson and WA Senator Rachel Siewert pledged the campaign to protect people against the threat of GM crops would continue “despite the disappointing verdict” for Mr Marsh.

“Today's decision reiterates the fact that the rights of non-GM farmers are not being protected and the system needs to change,” she said.

“It is clear that non-GMO farmers such as Steve Marsh face significant financial impacts if their crops are contaminated.”

“GM crops have not proven to be safe, nor have they been able to live up to the claims they can increase yields and reduce pesticide use.

“Serious concerns remain about the use of GM crops in Australia and to address this the Greens are calling for the reinstatement of the moratorium on GM crops in WA and changes to the laws governing liability and food labelling in order to protect the choices of farmers and consumers across the state.

“I congratulate Steve Marsh and his supporters for their work.

“They have carried a heavy burden for a number of years and their efforts will remain invaluable to the campaign for choice, transparency and protection for farmers, consumers and the environment.”

Monsanto Australia and NZ managing director Daniel Kruithoff said today’s judgement “reaffirms that different crops can be successfully grown side-by-side in Australia”.

“This legal dispute has been difficult for the farmers and communities involved,” he said.

“We hope that representatives from all farming sectors can work together to ensure disputes like this are avoided in the future.

“Australian farmers and consumers alike can be assured that local agriculture is successfully providing the choice in crops and food they expect.

“Organic, conventional and GM crops have grown side-by-side in Australia for many years which has contributed to the international competitiveness of local farmers.

“We expect Australia’s long history of being able to use different production systems to continue to improve the success and sustainability of local agriculture.”

Mr Kruithoff said Australian farmers are increasingly turning to Roundup Ready (RR) canola for its effective weed control and impressive yields.

In addition to the agronomic benefits, a recent independent study revealed that RR canola reduced farmers’ environmental footprint through lowered diesel consumption and herbicide use.”

WA Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren said WA laws “have failed a fairness test today”.

“This is a saddening result for Steve Marsh and non-GMO farmers holding their breath in hopes of a defence against Monsanto,” she said.

“It is clear that GM farming cannot co-exist with organic farming when voluntary regulation practices are ignored.

“What we have seen in this court case is an undeniable dismissal of voluntary regulations that could have prevented the contamination of Steve Marsh's organic crops.

“The judgment comes at great cost to the Marsh family and non-GMO farmers everywhere.

“The Greens will continue to work toward a fairer system were one farmer isn't forced to battle his neighbour.

“There must be a better way.”

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


28/05/2014 6:26:59 PM

Now, Barnaby, it is about time we do something about Greenpeace's charitable organisation status. How can an activist organisation that destroys tax payer funded CSIRO GM research have this privilege.
28/05/2014 8:27:49 PM

“It is clear that non-GMO farmers such as Steve Marsh face significant financial impacts if their crops are contaminated.” WA Senator Rachel Siewert . Incredible. 8 or 9 GM plants are "Contamination". Get into the real world. It is not like the place was over run by something really damaging like parthenium or lantana.
28/05/2014 8:37:19 PM

"In a recent interview with Fairfax Agricultural Media, Mr Joyce said the GM debate had to move on from the religious and to the scientific". It is a pity the Federal Government doesn't even have a science minister and is drastically reducing funding the CSIRO, our leading science organisation that is working on better breeding of crop plants. So who are the ideologues, the anti-Gmo protesters or the anti-sciencers who reckon Global Warming is crap and who currently run this joint? Seems that the Feds and the anti-Gmo organisations are tarred with the same brush.
28/05/2014 9:39:41 PM

If Barnaby Joyce is so keen on the need for science-based decision making, then why doesn't he fight against the things our top scientists keep telling us are responsible for global warming. Just have a look at the NASA website. We are heading for the same weather conditions as the Americas are having now and our pollies do sweet f all about it. Our lives are full of science, we depend on science, so why won't our country even try to keep up with the rest of the world?
29/05/2014 6:12:08 AM

This is a fantastic ruling for common sense and I am glad that the Minister for Agriculture is supportive of Mr Baxter. We have a very simple agreement with our anti-GM neighbours: we wont grow any GM crops, provided they keep their livestock, and therefore our livestock lice free. It costs a lot of money to make our flock of sheep lice free after contamination from the neighbours, almost as much as it would cost them in royalties to Monsanto if there was GM found in their canola...
29/05/2014 6:34:11 AM

I'm relieved. I no longer need to worry about contaminating my neighbour's crop or production system with whatever I decide to put out or spray out on my own land.
29/05/2014 10:00:54 AM

As a recent comer to this GMO area I have to conclude that common sense has not been allowed to prevail . A farmer finds 8 undesirable plants in his paddock that are really weeds by definition. One would expect the farmer to dig out and burn these plants and leave it at that - it would remove the problem in this case the GMO so his products would still be okay. Such good sense has not been applied so it has to be concluded that Marsh and Baxter are just unfortunate pawns in a game orchestrated by some other groups for their own benefit . Both BIG Organic and small organic come to mind
29/05/2014 11:13:37 AM

Joyce would be happy, as he along with his Liberal Gov support Corporate GM food over the peoples wish to eat natural
Fred Haskins
29/05/2014 11:26:15 AM

Barnaby, in a democracy the law is the servant of the people, not the other way around, How long before frustrated farmers take the law into their own hands. The family Law Act is one such Act that provokes such action. The overwhelming elected members of NSW Farmers Association Executive Council recently voted down signing the tri lateral agreement on the introduction of GM wheat. Get out to some of the fields in NSW and see if you can find any professional growers who have fallen for the GM yarn, you may have noticed the the US FDA has had to increase the MRL rate for roundup in corn
29/05/2014 4:28:25 PM

A government of the rich for the rich with no other considerations. "Move on from the religious to the scientific" ? Best talk to your cabinet mates about that, or maybe even get a Minister for Science. No links to reality at all Barnaby.
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