Farmer defends our right to choose safe food

Feature Story - 3 August, 2011
A West Australian wheat farmer, Steve Marsh, is taking the protection of farmer and consumer rights into his own hands. After 60% of his organic wheat farm near Konjonup, was contaminated with patented genetically modified (GM) canola from his neighbour’s property late last year, he has secured legal representation and will take the matter to court.

The landmark court case is the first of its kind in Australia, and even in the world, as farmers come to terms with the inevitable contamination – and conflict - that GM crops bring. Steve Marsh lost his hard won organic certification as a result of the contamination.

The court case, which was announced last week by Marsh’s lawyers Slater and Gordon is about the right of farmers to choose what they grow, but it could ultimately decide whether Australian consumers have a right to choose what they eat.

There are two main issues being tested for the first time through this court-case:

1. The right of farmers to choose what they grow. This case clearly shows that contamination between GM and non-GM crops is inevitable. The question is, if GM and non-GM cannot live side by side, who should bear the cost of contamination between crops?

2. The rights of Australian consumers to choose safe, non-GM food. The right of Australians to choose safe, GM-free food is at risk. If farmers can’t stop contamination between natural crops and experimental GM crops, Australians will lose their right to avoid risky GM foods at the supermarket.

Farmers, Mums, Dads and decision-makers around the country will all be watching this case closely. GM foods have never been proven safe, and they have never been tested for long-term health effects, and unlike traditional crops, genetically modified crops cannot be contained. [1]

Steve Marsh is not alone in his struggle. Greenpeace is defending the rights of farmers to choose what they grow, and the rights of consumers to know if we’re eating GM food that has never been proven safe. We are calling for laws to protect Australian farmers like Steve Marsh who lose profits and property rights as a result of contamination, and demanding food labelling laws that require labeling of all GM ingredients in our food.

We all have a right to choose.

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[1] There have been 29 reported incidents of GM contamination in Australia. For more information go to: