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Consumer access to GM-free food at stake in landmark case

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Media Release

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A world-first court case due to start in the Western Australian Supreme Court next week could determine whether consumers continue to have access to GM-free food grown in Australia.

Slater and Gordon is representing Steve Marsh, a WA farmer who is suing his neighbour, Michael Baxter, for negligence over the alleged contamination of his organic property near Kojonup, south-east of Perth.

Mr Marsh lost organic certification on 70 per cent of his land in 2010 after genetically modified canola swathes and seed blew onto his property.

Slater and Gordon Commercial and Project Litigation lawyer Mark Walter said the trial was a landmark case that could have implications beyond the organic industry and could impact the conventional farming industry as well as consumers.

“As far as we know, this is the first court case of its type anywhere in the world. It will test the legal rights of farmers to choose how and what they farm on their land,” Mr Walter said.

“The case is about freedom of choice, for both farmers and for consumers. It is important that farmers retain their rights to farm GM-free food as this in turn will protect consumers' ability to purchase GM-free food."

Mr Marsh said he was seeking damages and a permanent injunction to protect his farm from future contamination.

“We have invested a lot of work, time and money over the last decade to become organically certified and help develop our markets,” Mr Marsh said.

“As a result of this GM canola contamination of our land and all the ramifications of that, we have now suffered great financial hardship and an uncertain future.”

The trial is due to start in the WA Supreme Court in Perth on Monday, February 10. Mr Marsh will be one of up to 20 witnesses, including international experts.

Slater and Gordon is conducting Mr Marsh’s trial as a public interest case.