Michael Baxter Wins for GM Technology

THE Luddites, including Greenpeace, Scott Kinnear and Margaret Fulton, have campaigned relentlessly against the introduction of genetically modified canola. Their misleading propaganda successfully saw moratoriums introduced in many states. More recently Mr Kinnear has raised $750,000 to help Steve Marsh sue his neighbour, Michael Baxter, for planting GM canola.

In what is considered a landmark decision Justice Kenneth James Martin today ruled in favour of the GM canola grower, Michael Baxter.

The following reasons were given for the decision:

1. For private nuisance it had not been shown that there had been any unreasonable interference by Mr Baxter in the Marshes’ use and enjoyment of their property.

2. Mr Baxter was not to be held responsible as a broadacre farmer merely for growing a lawful GM crop and choosing to adopt a harvest methodology which was entirely orthodox in its implementation.

3. Nor could Mr Baxter be held responsible, in law, for the reactions to the incursion of Marshes’ organic certification body, NASAA, which in the circumstances presented to be an unjustifiable reaction to what occurred.

4. His Honour also rejected the Marshes’ cause of action in common law negligence. The Marshes’ action for exclusively a financial loss, was without precedent. No basis in legal principle was presented to the Court to extend the law to the events in this case.

5. Mr Baxter had not been shown to have acted negligently, either by growing or then by swathing the lawfully grown GM canola in 2010.

For more information on this story read The Land at http://www.theland.com.au/news/agriculture/cropping/general-news/baxter-wins-gm-case/2700017.aspx?storypage=1

For more information about coexistence and GMOs visit http://www.abca.com.au/coexistence/


35 Responses to Michael Baxter Wins for GM Technology

  1. John F. Hultquist May 29, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    Canola has been our go-to cooking oil for about 35 years. Much of it was growing and flowering (beautiful yellow fields) in the northern part of Idaho when we first passed thru in 1975. The plant was first bred naturally from rapeseed. Some of the base plants have a high erucic acid component and that, now, has been reduced to almost nothing. The oil is known as low erucic acid rapeseed (LEAR) oil.


    ‘NoTricksZone’ had a post on nutritional aspects on May 10, 2014.

  2. spangled drongo May 29, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    GMO abuse, like CAGW is built on scary scenarios but the average person realises that on our crowded planet it has to be a net benefit. In both cases.

    GMO = food availability.

    GMO = pesticide reduction.

    GMO = energy savings etc

    BTW, I thought that nasty Monsanto’s GMO seeds were not reproductive.

  3. DaveW May 29, 2014 at 8:26 am #

    I was once randomly (so they claimed) selected to take part in a 30 minute survey at a university. Since they offered $50 for participation and it wasn’t far from my office, it was hard to refuse. The survey turned out to be all about my feelings about GM canola. I had and have no problem with GM crops per se and when buying canola my choice would be guided by first price and second perceived quality (aka brand name). I didn’t rate GM in my choices one way or the other. I’ve often wondered if I was skewing the results, but I imagine most people who are not too superstitious would follow similar guidelines (or is this false consensus thinking?).

    Not that it is impossible to do dumb things in plant breeding. I remember reading about disease resistant celery varieties with high concentrations of furanocoumarins that left anyone who handled much covered in blisters (but this was from traditional plant breeding, not GM http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=700717). Some of the early GM work using modified xylem-inhabiting bacteria introduced into maize seemed pretty dumb to me. It would only be a matter of time before the bacteria colonized grassy weeds. Once the transgenic methods improved enough to modify plants themselves, though, such escape dangers decreased dramatically. In any case, these are cultural problems for the crops, not threats to human health.

    In case anyone cares, I spent the $50 on Australian wine, but inverted my guidelines to perceived quality first and price second. It is difficult to be completely logical about everything.

  4. Doug Scott May 29, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    How refreshing to have a sensible judgement on this matter. Of course, this will only create more hatred from the loony green factions and provide grist to the mill for more protests. Reasoned argument in the pursuit of truth is abandoned if the facts are not in agreement with their mantra.

  5. Debbie May 29, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I think that tends to be the issue more often than not!
    It isn’t only difficult to be logical about everything, in this type of space I would suggest it’s impossible.
    You have also highlighted that plant breeding has been happening for eons and it is actually a fact that Australia has invested heavily in R&D over the past.
    It often amuses me that the same people who are happy to purchase precious little, specifically bred, fluffy, handbag dogs and/or hairless cats and/or invest in specifically bred thoroughbred horses and/or keep caged exotic birds and/or pet snakes and/or buy seedless mandarins or water melons and/or various different plant bred/grafted apples/oranges/ tomatoes and/or differently produced flour and/or specifically bred gluten free products etc etc etc are often the same people who form ‘holier than thou’ and highly emotional arguments opinions about agricultural R & D into plant breeding and by extension GM.
    There is an alarming lack of logic!

  6. redress May 29, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    While I agree with the general sentiments of the decision, but I have some questions.

    Western Australian (WA) Government has from January 2010 allowed GM canola to be grown on a commercial scale in WA, which means it is treated as any other commercial crop.

    Now in any action for negligence, one has to determine if there was a duty of care, was it breached and did damage result. To use farm chemicals as an example; if they are sprayed, however carefully, but cause damage to a neighbors crops, the farmer/operator is liable.

    The judges finding seems to me to ignore the problem.

    4. His Honour also rejected the Marshes’ cause of action in common law negligence. The Marshes’ action for exclusively a financial loss, was without precedent. No basis in legal principle was presented to the Court to extend the law to the events in this case.

    Because something is without precedent does not mean it is not actionable, nor does there not being a basis in legal principle mean that a legal principle cannot be established.

    So, where one farmers livelihood is dependent on organic certification, and on sales into the world wide organic system, and anothers does not, where does the duty of care lie?

  7. Johnathan Wilkes May 29, 2014 at 2:44 pm #


    So, where one farmers livelihood is dependent on organic certification, and on sales into the world wide organic system, and anothers does not, where does the duty of care lie?

    I can clearly see where you are coming from but can’t see how a GM crop (seed most likely infertile) grown on a neighbor’s property should affect his organic certification?

    Didn’t read the full judgement but I’m guessing the judge had the same problem as I do.

  8. Debbie May 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    It’s also probably worth remembering that organic farming services a niche market and for most people the product is prohibitively expensive.
    If all consumers in the world could pay and if it was possible to create realistic yields to feed all consumers that way, then of course more farmers would be doing it that way.
    Most people in Australia are fortunate and can choose to pay the premium price for organic food.
    Perhaps part of the problem is how this case was framed?
    Bulk cereal production in Australia is important in GDP terms as well as feeding people around the world.
    But there is also not a thing wrong with encouraging the growing organic niche market.
    It seems to me that this case set one against the other ?

  9. Beth Cooper May 29, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    The decision to go organic seems to require ‘extra protection’ under the law for organic
    farmers to protect their status against wind and weather. In a democratic society
    favouring freedom of choice and that means rights to diverse farming practices as well
    as other diverse practices, perhaps the problem lies with the top-down rigid zero tolerance
    of the organic certification. Utopian planners are, well, unreal.

  10. redress May 29, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    The The NASAA Organic Standard, December 2004, Amended 06/02/2012 defines the minimum conditions for certification under NASAA’s organic certification program, which is accredited jointly by AQIS and IFOAM.

    3.2.9 Organic certification shall be withdrawn where NASAA considers there is an unacceptable risk of contamination from GMOs or their derivatives.
    3.2.10 Any certified production area within ten (10) kilometres of a site used to grow genetically
    engineered crops is perceived to be at risk of contamination and certified operators must inform NASAA of any such sites known to be within that radius.
    3.2.11 Contamination of organic product by GMOs that results from circumstances beyond the control of the operator may alter the organic status of the operation.
    3.2.12 Under the National Standard, NASAA will decertify any products that are tested and reveal the presence of GMOs.

    The judge appears to dismiss the The NASAA Organic Standard, the reason cited being that it was ” an unjustifiable reaction to what occurred.” Simply stating that something is “unjustifiable” does not mean it is not legal.

    I truly wish that were a sound defense under law, because then I could argue that any organisation [that I disagreed with], by enforcing of their rules, [try it with a bank] was reacting unjustifiably, and therefor I had not responsibility for, well, anything.

  11. spangled drongo May 29, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    Redress, if you are running a business that has zero tolerance of your neighbour’s legal business, it is pretty unreasonable to expect to hold a permanent injunction over the activities of that neighbour.

    I think organic producers need to examine their intolerance, check the science of GE and try living in the imperfect real world.

  12. davefromweewaa May 29, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Isn’t it the case that overseas certified “organic” produce can have up to 1% GMO contamination?
    Seems to me the problem is that the Australian certifier has an unreasonable standard.
    On a slightly different subject, I’ve always wondered how the word organic was corrupted or conscripted to its current usage. Has anyone ever seen inorganic farm produce ?

  13. Robert May 29, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    I don’t boycott “organics”, but I always prefer the non-“organic” product. The only reason I don’t use chemicals around here is that I don’t need to. If I needed them I’d use them.

    As for GM, whatever its growing pains it fills me with wonder. Rock stars won’t “feed the world”. GM will feed the world. With the help of the world’s greatest human:

  14. Debbie May 30, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    Excellent question Dave.
    The term ‘organic’ has definitely been somewhat corrupted and of course there really isn’t such a thing as ‘inorganic farming’
    Much of the actual produce that is now deemed to be grown ‘organically’ has already undergone significant changes due to plant breeding and animal breeding by people in laboratories.

  15. Beth Cooper May 30, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    Yes Robert, Norman Borlaug and the green revolution. Paul Erlich wrong again.

  16. Beth Cooper May 30, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    Paul Ehrlich actually. Tsk!

  17. Toby May 30, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    If you dont use pesticides etc, if a plant is attacked it will produce its own naturally. Hence the reason so much “organic” food does not appear as “perfect”.

    Of course the pesticide is natural but it is in the fruit rather than on the fruit/ vegetable/ plant, and cant be washed off.
    I am no expert and no biologist, but my mother is (now retired but that doesnt mean she doesnt know what she is talking about…in fact it means she has more wisdom than most) and she can not believe all the crap associated with “organic”, or anti GM.

    Yes Beth…Paul Ehrlich, another enviro nut.

    I was asked recently if there are any environmentalists I actually respect…David Attenborough in general although not re climate change…and David Bellamy….and……….? Sadly I can think of no more, probably because the only ones we hear about are such ignorant zealots?

  18. Beth Cooper May 30, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Pays to listen at all sides doesn’t it Toby. Listen only to the green zealots and you
    think tomorrow is Doomsday. … if not tomorrow, then next week. )

  19. Graham May 30, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    In no way am I a Green, but I do not agree with the unprotected use of GM crops. To say that humans can consume a crop that is resistant to weed killer and is liberally sprayed with the toxin, and that it won’t harm us is naive at best. Monsanto and the like are not doing this to feed the planet – they are doing this for money and control. They want to change the basic crop so they can patent it, no one else can copy it and we have to pay more. They can also sell their chemicals to the farmers.

    From a health perspective this is the same situation as the pharmaceutical industry, who take something from nature which in 90% of cases has no side effects, and change the molecule so that they preserve some of the curative aspects of the base element, whilst enabling them to patent it – again money not public conscience drives these activities. In the process they introduce a raft of harmful sometimes deadly side effects.

    As for crop production volumes, organic produces as much if not more crops when grown properly. This is not about being Green, this is just about volume and common sense. This farmer lost his organic certification because of the infestation of GM crops from his neighbour. This judgment is seriously flawed, and society will live to regret these types of decisions when in future we need to go back to the base natural element to retrieve what has been lost. Mankind (or womankind) is not smart enough to carry this off, whereas nature has done this in a balanced way for millennia.

  20. cohenite May 30, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    A great result and I’ll look at the decision when I have some more time. Now for a rejection of halal certification.

  21. Debbie May 30, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    My mother, who is also wise, calls the current behaviour and emotional hullabaloo about organic farming. . . “orgasmic farming”.
    🙂 🙂

    As well as being wise, my Mum has an excellent sense of humour.

  22. Robert May 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.

    – Norman Borlaug

  23. Toby May 30, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Graham, i agree with your fear about biodiversity and Monsanto dominance, it is a potential problem and one that should be monitored.

    There are genuine problems with seed stocks in poor countries and the inability to store your own seed to grow again next season.

    However it seems to me that the benefits outweigh the costs overall.

    Good old Malthus felt we would hit a population peak because we would run out of land and hence food production (corn in those days) would be limited.

    Like most modern greens he forgot about human ingenuity and innovation. GM is just another step in this direction.

    Humans have been modifying plants and animals since we became the dominant species.

    Very Little around us has not been influenced from the grasses that grow to the food we eat.

    If you get a chance watch “animal pharm” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYeu2fG87T4 { a link to part 1}( It was on the ABC a few years ago)it is a splendid look into the pro’s and cons of humans playing with evolution. It seems very balanced. They start with a biologist ( pro change) and a food critic who is anti GM change etc and believes in the “old ways”. By the end he is pretty much converted.

  24. Beth Cooper May 30, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    Light side dark-side, Luddites and who would’ve expected Kay, Hargreaves,
    and you’re into The Industrial Revolution and one century on, the end of famine
    in the western world and life expectancy statistics doubling and oh what might
    Mozart have done had he lived in a later age instead of dying in his thirties.

    beth – the -serf. Take a look at me Serf Under-ground journal Second Edishun. )

  25. Debbie May 31, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Graeme at 10:50

    “As for crop production volumes, organic produces as much if not more crops when grown properly. This is not about being Green, this is just about volume and common sense.”

    No offence to you personally. . .but I think you are missing the point here and perhaps you don’t understand the logistics of producing cereal and oilseed crops? ???

    In broad acre agriculture, such as canola production, I think you will find that : ‘organic techniques do (NOT!!!) produce as much if not more crops’.
    If ‘organic techniques did produce as much if not more crops’ . . .then most Australian broad acre farmers would already be using those techniques.

    If we’re talking about our own little vege patches in our back yards, or specific organic market gardens on the urban fringes, then that is a different matter to the issue being discussed here.

  26. Johnathan Wilkes May 31, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Just a BTW
    You keep saying you’re not a warmist and not a greeny. Maybe, but you do a good imitation.

    I learned a bit more about this case and apparently seed was blown over to the other property.
    I could see a good case for complaint and compensation if the neighboring farmer was also growing the same crop but the organic variety.
    Otherwise the problem lies in the unreasonable rules for organic registration.

    As to producing the same or more using ‘organic’ methods?
    Poppycock. One reason capitalism works is that if there is a demand for something someone will fill it.
    If ‘organic’ methods worked the same way and produced just as much, Monsanto or any other company would waste their time and money uselessly, why would anybody pay for it?
    Why do the CSIRO and other institutions constantly research to try to improve varieties?

    We never used our own seed for next years crop, yes we kept some for emergency but always bought certified seed.

  27. cohenite May 31, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Redress says:

    “Simply stating that something is “unjustifiable” does not mean it is not legal.

    I truly wish that were a sound defense under law, because then I could argue that any organisation [that I disagreed with], by enforcing of their rules, [try it with a bank] was reacting unjustifiably, and therefor I had not responsibility for, well, anything.”

    It is when a Judge says it. That is the difference; when you say it Redress it is just bush-lawyer talk.

  28. hunter May 31, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    Climate kooks, like GMO kooks, are anti-science fanatics that dress up their arguments with sciencey sounding words and phrases. Australia seems poised to be a leading nation in sweeping away anti-science kooks of all stripes. Congratulations!

  29. hunter May 31, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    Monsanto is in fact feeding the planet.
    Health is improving.
    There are some licensing and ownership/patent issues that are questionable, but much less so than the pernicious dishonest accusations about GMO crops by GMO kooks.

  30. Siliggy June 1, 2014 at 1:10 am #

    What ever your opinion of “Roundup ready” is. Here is a challenge for you. Watch at least the first of these videos and see if your opinion changes.
    Some claimed facts to notice. Canola yield improves with managed bee pollination or nurtured wild pollination. About 1 in three of the foods we eat require bee pollination. A there has been a worldwide increase in crops that require bee pollination. Over the winter of 12/13 U.S. bee keepers reported a 40 to 50 percent loss of hives. It appears to have been worse again this time around due to the harsh winters that adjusted data is hiding (warmist propaganda as usual is part of the problem not the solution, “making a difference”). Albert Einstein once prophetically remarked, “Mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years.”


    Why is 3 feet in distance a problem for bees?

    Who has the Roundup resistant bees?

  31. Farmer Gez June 1, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    I’ve just finished sowing 2000 ha of crop and the decision is good but the damage done by the enviro/organic lobby to GM science and the lack of crops that I could be growing is real and depressing. The organic industry markets their products by making consumers fear that the crops I grow are dangerous to their health and the environment …Fear Food. Perhaps I could sue for damages? I imagine drought/disease tolerant crops that could make farming more viable but alas the regulatory cost and consumer fear stops science from giving me the outcomes of genetic research. Frost wiped out 3/4 of our crop in 1998 and 40% last year and I don’t have to tell anyone of the droughts Australia has experienced in the last twenty years. We need GM crops that have improved environmental stress responses but there is little chance of this thanks to the Green movement. Millions still starve in this world and we deny them the food and the technology that would feed them. The Organic motto should be.. ‘Starvation is no excuse for endangering your health’

  32. Siliggy June 1, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Well the Einstein quote may be both wrong and miss-attributed but the rest of it still makes sense( even if a bit over pessimistic).
    The low frequency parts have links to the solar/cosmic modulation of the Schumann resonance so are an interest if bees turn out via vegetation to be part of yet another way the sun alters the climate.

  33. Debbie June 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm #


    This one comes replete with commenting about what the bees and the trees are thinking/predicting:

    “The bees are predicting a mild winter, just looking at their behaviour.

    “Even the trees are confused by a year in which rain did not come until the end of the wet season.

    “All my citrus and stone fruit trees have flowered heavily,” he said yesterday.

    “They seem to think it’s spring. The blue gums are in heavy bud and flowering about two months early.”

    And on another topic here:
    Replete with sporting analogies.


    While this makes some sense:
    “We are a nation without a plan, he says. Nowhere does a policy or a strategy exist that sets out this country’s vision for the future, and how science and innovation should help achieve that.

    “You don’t go out and buy your bricks before you know what kind of house you’re going to build,” he says.

    But the majority of the article is complaining about funding.
    This article has completely ignored the exponential rise in funding to organisations such as CSIRO over the past decade.
    Unfortunately, much of that increased funding has gone into research that really hasn’t achieved much to inform a:

    “policy or a strategy () that sets out this country’s vision for the future, and how science and innovation should help achieve that.”

    As that funding stream exponentially increased, rural and regional Australia watched the denudation of research and an alarming loss of social capital/ scientific expertise in Ag research.

  34. Ian Thomson June 2, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    Most of the people I know who are growing GM canola are doing it because they have herbicide resistant weeds. The GM canola is “bred” to tolerate higher doses of herbicides. This particular Luddite does not wish to eat roundup for tea.
    Even in spite of Monsanto getting it approved in 2011 as an antibiotic.
    I notice in the analysis of the judgement the difficulty of testing in the field , without special equipment ,is often mentioned .
    I am pleased that, with their proud history of generosity , that Monsanto won’t ever consider sending a man into your field with a gadget , analyse your crop and ask for the royalties.

    Anyway, butter tastes heaps better, so it won’t worry me, even though I do find that canola spread works well as a lubricant on my caravan props.

  35. yonason June 16, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Personally, I could care less if Rapeseed is genetically modified or not.

    Over 30 years ago I discovered that Cottonseed Oil made me deathly ill. In the past few years I heard that Canola was bad, but ignored that and kept consuming it until it finally made me sick (if I eat bread made with it I’m sick for a week with flu-like symptoms (burning muscle pain and exhaustion).

    Is it just me? …or could other people be affected as well? Could be some are and don’t know what’s making them sick.After all, those are the only two oils known to contain toxins (see here, pp 348-349)

    As long as you are young and healthy, you’re probably OK. But as you age, you may not be so fortunate. But then, who cares about old folks these days, anyway?

    All the best.

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