The long-running trial of Marsh v Baxter, about an organic growers farm being contaminated by GM canola from his neighbour and therefore being decertified, is finally over with the predicable result of there being no fault with the GM grower. The interesting part is the judgement’s findings.
For years anti GM groups have been going on about the dangers of GM in our food, GM in the environment and the general disaster it will cause all of humanity. Yet, to date, none of their claims or evidence have stood up to any scrutiny. It’s these same groups that have been pushing for the court case that pitted two neighbours against each other.
So what was the finding? The court decided the contaminated grower should have sued the certifying body that deregistered him, not his neighbour. Despite a very comprehensive certifying process there appears to be no process for decertifying someone, other than one based on a philosophical reaction.
Even after having three years to prepare for the court case, the anti GM groups where unable to present one piece of evidence to the court that proved GM was in anyway harmful, caused any contamination to food or caused any risk to organic growers.
The clear result from this trial is organic groups are going to have to face up to the realities of modern food production. Claims about quality, nutrition and the environment need to be evidence based and, as clearly demonstrated in the Marsh v Baxter trial, stand up to scrutiny.
The reality of all this is nothing has changed for conventional agriculture. Market signals continue to tell us the world is looking for more food and there are fewer resources to produce it. Farms continue to look for tools that reduce inputs while increasing yields and help them remain viable businesses. It’s these factors that have seen a 55% increase in GM canola plantings in Western Australia this year.
Organic farming has a role in modern agriculture, but to be successful it’s going to have to shake its hippy fringe and engage with the scientific community to grow its industry.