WA GROWERS are unlikely to know the outcome of a State parliamentary inquiry exploring compensation mechanisms for farmers who suffer economic loss caused by genetically modified (GM) material before next year.
The Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs held public hearings on the contentious issue throughout April and May, after the inquiry was triggered by a petition tabled by Greens MLC Diane Evers last year.
The petition was prompted by the six-year court battle between Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh and his neighbour Michael Baxter, after Mr Marsh lost his organic certification when GM canola was found to have blown from Mr Baxter’s farm onto his organic crop in 2010.
Mr Marsh attempted to sue Mr Baxter for more than $80,000 in compensation, but the case was eventually dismissed in the Supreme Court.
Key agricultural stakeholders including the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WAFarmers, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA, CropLife Australia, the Grain Industry Association of WA and Monsanto were among those to present evidence to the standing committee against the introduction of a compensation scheme, arguing growers were sufficiently protected under common law.
The groups highlighted the success of co-existence between GM and non-GM farmers across the State, deeming further regulation unnecessary.
Meantime, groups such as Gene Ethics, the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia and FOODwatch WA presented arguments in favour of a compensation mechanism for non-GM farmers who suffer financially due to GM contamination, with suggestions put forward for a no-fault system of compensation for GM contamination funded through a levy on all GM seed sales in the State.
Stakeholders were hoping for findings to be handed down within the next couple of months, however, according to Labor East Metropolitan Region MLC and committee chairman Matthew Swinbourn, that was highly unlikely.
Mr Swinbourn said while there was no set date for the committee to report its findings, it was unlikely to be completed this year.
“It is our intention to report in the first quarter of next year,” Mr Swinbourn said.
“The inquiry is ongoing and we continue to engage with stakeholders.”