Australian crops with or without genetic modification

Steve Marsh is a Western Australian farmer who sued his neighbour Michael Baxter for ‘reckless’ harvesting of GM (genetically modified, genetically engineered) canola (oilseed rape, rapeseed, Brassica napus). Some GM canola seeds ended up on Mr Marsh’s land.

Mr Marsh doesn’t grow canola but due to a ‘zero tolerance’ policy, he lost organic status from 75% of his land. He farms at Eagle Rest, having gained organic status because he saw that it would be good for business. Mr Baxter farms at Seven Oaks using conventional methods. Neither seeks fame.

The GM canola was Roundup Ready, meaning that Mr Baxter had the option of spraying weeds with Roundup (glyphosate) weedkiller. Roundup, and Roundup Ready seeds, are made by the chemical and biotech giant Monsanto.

The Marsh vs Baxter case has attracted attention around the world because it challenges Monsanto’s power.

Before these neighbours faced one another in court, Ian Walker at the Global Mail told us why people care about Marsh vs Baxter. He’s amended what he said there, removing a claim that the problem arose from stormy weather, but apart from that I recommend his article. He shows us how these two ordinary people found themselves under a global spotlight. ‘The outcome of Marsh vs Baxter is being anticipated by GM debate watchers around the globe… While there are previous instances of water, fire, foot and mouth disease and even potato blight causing damage to a neighbouring farmer’s property, this case is pioneering legal territory.’

The court case finished several weeks ago and we’re waiting for the verdict. Meanwhile the anti-GM True Food Network tells us that Roundup Ready canola is one of only three GM crops permitted in Australia. The others are varieties of cotton (Gossypium herbaceum): a Roundup Ready cotton and a Bt (insecticidal) cotton. Like the Roundup Ready canola, these cotton varieties are by Monsanto.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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