GMOs in Australia; Raw milk in Ontario

From the Centre for Social Poetry:

West Australian farmer Steve Marsh, who is suing his long-time friend Michael Baxter, claiming the latter’s GM crops contaminated his organic farm. Picture: Marie Nirme Source: The Australian. Click image to go to the story in the Australian in which this photo appeared.

“Two court proceedings of global significance are currently underway. The first is in Perth, Western Australia; the second in Ontario, Canada. Both cases have relevance not just for the future of food, but of social life as a whole.

Steve Marsh is an organic farmer from Kojonup, Western Australia. He grew up using ‘conventional’ farming methods, and continued to do so when he took over the farm from his father. After experiencing a number of health issues, however, as well as observing reduced powers in some sheep dips and commercial fertilisers, he decided to trial, in 2004, organic farming, particularly grains. The yields were slightly lower, he said, but the quality was better. He also met a real consumer need for organic produce, and so was able to remain financially viable. Ultimately, he said he was happy to be providing a good quality, natural product to consumers.[1]

In 2010 the WA government lifted a moratorium on genetically modified (GM) canola. Monsanto (and others) began offering to farmers a form of canola engineered to be resistant to herbicides such as its own trademark herbicide ‘Roundup.’ Farmers, keen to increase yields, were advised by agronomists to use the GM canola, together with herbicides such as Roundup in order to kill ‘weeds,’ including rye grass. Many farmers took up the advice, including many of Marsh’s neighbours.

One of Marsh’s neighbours, Michael Baxter, grew up with Marsh. They went to the same primary school and, as it is in small rural communities, know each other relatively well. Marsh knew that Baxter had planted Monsanto’s GM canola. He also knew that it could blow across onto his organic land. If this happened, Marsh knew he would probably lose his organic certification and, with it, his livelihood. Under existing government regulations, or lack thereof, Marsh knew that if such contamination occurred he would be left with no other option than to sue for damages….”

Farmer Michael Schmidt, with lawyer Derek From, talks to reporters outside the Ontario Court of Appeal at Osgoode Hall, where the appeal of his raw milk case was heard on February 5th, 2014.

“On the other side of the world, Michael Schmidt – a biodynamic-organic dairy farmer from Ontario – has been fighting for around 20 years to supply raw milk to those who want it. In Canada – as in many places in the ‘developed’ world – it is illegal to supply or distribute raw milk, with the Ontario government arguing that it represents a “significant public health risk.” Schmidt argues that by making the sale and distribution of unpasteurised milk illegal, the government is infringing upon the basic freedoms of both himself and those who want the milk. His lawyer has argued that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes “the right of individuals to make decisions pertaining to their own bodies and their own health.”

Over the years, Schmidt has been in and out of court – sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but always arguing for the right of individuals to choose what they consume. Schmidt even attempted to work within the confines of the law by offering ‘cow shares’ to consumers. Under this scheme, consumers own the cow while Schmidt acts as an ‘agister’ for others – that is, as a carer for the livestock owned by others. In this sense, Schmidt says he was not selling or distributing milk – the owners themselves were choosing to consume the product from their own cows. The courts have so far rejected this argument.

In 2006 his farm was raided by armed officers, his equipment seized and all dairy products destroyed. In 2011 a provincial court convicted Schmidt of 13 charges under the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Raw Milk Act, fining him $9150 CAD. This decision overturned an earlier acquittal in which the judge sided with Schmidt. He is currently awaiting the result of his February 5 appeal to the highest court in Ontario.

In a way, both these cases represent a kind of ‘last straw’ for both Schmidt and Marsh, both of whom have attempted to resolve their particular issues in other ways with government before finding themselves in court. In a sense, they have been forced into these situations.

The issue, in either case, is only partly to do with GM vs. organic, or raw vs. pasteurised milk. This is only the ‘cream’ that settles on the surface of each case; but it does tell us something, however, about what is taking place below the surface, and it is an exploration of these deeper realities which can help us in moving forward….”

Read more on the Centre for Social Poetry.

Coverage of the Steve Marsh story in The Guardian.

Sowing seeds of discord — The Australian


Filed under News

4 responses to “GMOs in Australia; Raw milk in Ontario

  1. charles jasunas

    If Monsanto never had GM seeds there would be no problem to solve. These two friends would still be friends. Monsanto should as a responsible company would , see that all the good people involved get their due. It would not cost much and would save face to Monsanto. As I see it Monsanto needs all the saving it can get. Just a thought.

    • william

      if his neighbor had seeds of a different properties. Properties with less profit potential. Cross pollination could occur too. Now, would that farmer feel the need to sue for his losses too?
      Currently, I have a problem with my neighbor planting Canola next door. Seeds not pollination are blown into my fields. If you have ever grown Canola or Rape seed you will know how difficult it is to remove this plant from your fields….. you could call it a weed.
      If farmers could sue each other due to pollination or seed transfer. I am not certain that would solve anything.
      Basically, the list of items farmer’s could sue each other are endless.

  2. CACL is the Answer
    It is the opinion of the CACL Canadian Anti Corruption League that the real problem with government interference into our rights and freedom is corruption of the worst kind. These bumbling idiots keep pressing the phony issue of food safety when the issue is the right of every citizen to access the quality of food that they deem to be correct for their circumstance. Raw Milk is our basic human right as well as other high density quality food.
    The fight that Michael Schmidt is engaged in is about our rights and it has pointed out most definitely the corrupt and officious bullying of the government agencies. Take for instance the armed swat team raid on the farm when they laid the charges. There was no indication historically of any violence or threat of violence with regard to Michael Schmidt. It is the position of the CACL that this action could have been performed by a member of the police, buck naked with a donut in one hand (for comfort) and the badge in the other hand and the results would have been the same. Only the cost would have been greatly reduced. The police and the government have to get it through their corrupt little minds that the public is not impressed with this type of (show of force) on our hard working citizens.
    The Canadian Anti Corruption League is in favour of allowing access to raw milk for those that wish to consume it as part of their health regimen. It is after all our basic right to this freedom to nourish out bodies without government interference.
    This brings us to the goal of the CACL since some time ago we realized that being nice to government and brain dead officials will not get us any respect as the past 22 years has proven. CACL will work from the top down and we will get these rights and possibly within now and the next federal election. This is not a one person job, if it was I would have given you the right to raw milk last year. IF A PERSON WISHES TO BE KNOWN AND RESPECTED FIRST THEY HAVE TO STAND TALL. The leader of the CACL is Royce Hamer a person very familiar with corruption, at age 26 he took on the police department that he was employed with as a constable and with some help from citizens of integrity and honour was able to clean up a corrupt mess that had been festering for many years. Royce has been involved in politics at the executive level and during this time they were successful in three elections. In a nutshell Royce has a keen knowledge of government corruption, politics, and is a proven fighter of this darkness known as corruption.
    I for one moment you feel that this is a waste of time remember that the Mulroney Conservatives were decimated and left with only 2 seats after the voters got tired of his corrupt ways. David Peterson was turfed after one term by the voters and Bob Rae was thrown out after one term for similar reasons. Then the Bloc in Quebec was smashed by the NDP in the last federal election. There is nothing to it just join up and make a difference.
    This quote comes from an in depth investigation of Canadian politics by two Canadian Universities.
    McGill Queens University
    Canadians assume that their politicians and institutions are relatively free of the corruption they associate with other nations. The editors of this volume argue that this questionable supposition is based on scant evidence and very little serious analysis. – See more at:
    I also like this quote my Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
    The CACL will support any organization that has (a) A legitimate concern with their issue. (b) This organization shows intelligence and honour with integrity. With the CACL your fight will be over and you will be invited to provide direction as part of the steering committee. CACL values the intelligence of the average Canadian and treats it as a national asset.
    Now is the time to get involved not later. Go to our web site and read up and make suggestions. also visit our facebook page and give a like also provide some quality comments. There is no need to keep on wasting time for another 22 years of longer hoping for some justice when you have that control as a citizen and a voter. Remember not one of the mainstream parties in Canada will even mention the word CORRUPTION , there must be a reason and I suggest it is due to the fact that they are all part of the corrupt system.

  3. charles jasunas

    Big Corps and big Ags are in bed with their sweet heart governments. To put things straight let’s all join Royce and the CACL and make real change a reality.

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