If you’re passionate about what you eat, you have to watch ABC TV’s Australian Story on Monday night.
It tells the story of two farmers in Western Australia, Steve Marsh and Michael Baxter, who were childhood friends and neighbours, but ended up in a fight of Cain and Abel proportions. It’s the first time both families speak about it since they faced off in Perth’s Supreme court last year over the use of genetically modified canola seeds on Baxter’s farm.
This is a story about the changing face of Australian agriculture, two very different options and property rights. It’s also about what it means to be an organic farmer.
Marsh runs an organic farm that lost certification on 70% of the property when the governing body found rogue GM plants there in 2010. His neighbour, Baxter, planted GM canola and seeds blew across Marsh’s place. After losing income without organic status, Marsh decided to sue for $85,000 in compensation, as well as asking for injunctions to create the buffer zones between GM and organic crops.
Marsh lost the case last May. He appealed. That case is set to go before the WA Court of Appeal next week on March 23.
Monsanto, which runs a highly profitable GM seed program, makes farmers sign contracts which absolve the multinational of any liability should legal issues arise. If Marsh loses the appeal, he’s likely to face court costs of nearly $1 million, with both sides of the legal battle spending nearly $500,000 on their cases. He would lose his farm.
It’s a story that’s both tragic and profound. Australian Story airs at 8pm, Monday, March 16, on ABC1.