Media Release

Greens Bill to protect farmers from GM crops contamination

03/05/2012 12:00 am

Greens MLC Mark Parnell has introduced another Private Members Bill into the SA Upper House to protect farmers who want to remain GMO free.

“The Greens strongly support the continuation of the moratorium on GM crops in SA. But the experiences of farmers interstate have demonstrated clearly the need to protect organic and non-GM farmers from economic loss, if their crops are inadvertently contaminated by GMOs,” said Greens Parliamentary leader Mark Parnell.

In WA last month, organic farmer Stephen Marsh commenced Supreme Court action to sue his neighbour for economic loss as a result of the first farmer's loss of organic certification and therefore loss of income from the crops that he grows on his land. Approximately 70 percent of Mr Marsh's farm was stripped of its organic certification in 2010 as a result of contamination from a neighbouring farm’s GM canola crop.

“What a terrible situation, farmer having to sue farmer. My Bill tries to avoid the situation that Mr Marsh is facing, where his only alternative is to go to the courts and to sue his neighbour” Mr Parnell said.

Similar circumstances have arisen just across the border in Western Victoria where Mr Bob Mackley, a farmer from Natimuk, claimed that heavy rain washed GM canola from his neighbour's property through the boundary fence onto his own property. Whilst he is not an organically certified farmer, he is concerned that he will still suffer economic loss as a result of that contamination. Mr Mackley is also concerned issues of ongoing liability in regards to having this material on his land.

The Greens Bill, the Genetically Modified Crops Management (Right to Damages) Amendment Bill 2012, will enable a person who suffers damages as a result of genetically modified plant material contaminating their land to sue companies who own and sell the technology.  This includes Monsanto and Bayer.

“These farmers have a fundamental right to some level of security and protection, and a right to compensation if they are invaded by GM crops escaping from elsewhere,” he said.

“My Bill will place the responsibility on the big multinational companies which push this technology to make sure there is no contamination of neighbouring farms, by hitting them hard if things go wrong,” said Mr Parnell.

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