Dear Diggers (Winter 2015)

Contributions and feedback from our readers following the Winter Garden 2015 issue.

Update on GM Canola Steve Marsh Case and RoundUp

By Scott Kinnear, Chair, Safe Food Foundation

Some of you will would have seen Australian Story which covered organic farmer Steve Marsh.

He lost organic certification on 70% of his farm at Kojonup in WA when his neighbour's GM canola blew across the fence in late 2010. As a result Steve lost much of his premium income and lost the market for his organic oats.

Steve tried to resolve the dispute with his neighbour but was unsuccessful, and he went on to launch the world's first lawsuit of an organic farmer suing a GM farmer in the Western Australia Supreme Court for loss and damage and some restrictions to stop the GM canola coming back onto his farm.

What is it stake is Steve's right to grow what he wants, certified organic GM free food, and our right to buy this food. This is a test case that will affect all of us who care about food.

Court case cost $1.5 million
The Safe Food Foundation supported Steve Marsh from the start with an agreement to raise funds publicly to support his legal costs. We raised $750,000 to pay the cost of disbursements with Slater & Gordon lawyers acting no charge under their public interest policy. The case went to trial in February 2014. Sadly and incomprehensibly the judge dismissed Steve's case!

The same judge in his costs ruling awarded special costs, and refused Steve's request to find out who had paid the GM farmers legal bills of $800,000, even though Steve's lawyers argued that if the GM farmer has not paid his legal bills, then Steve should not be liable to pay those costs.

Steve received legal advice to suggest that the trial decision and costs ruling should be appealed. The trial appeal was heard before three Supreme Court judges on 23 & 24 of March this year with the decision expected in six months.

Mansanto supported Baxter

On 25 March the costs ruling appeal was heard and yay, Steve got what he asked for! The court unanimously ordered that the GM farmer disclose who had paid his legal bills. They also ordered a stay on the $800,000 of costs from the original trial pending the outcome of the appeal. If Steve wins the appeal the costs order will be reversed. On 8 April, Monsanto issued a press release saying “Monsanto Australia contributed to the Baxter's legal costs to ensure they could defend themselves in court.”

This is not surprising and shows the strong forces at play behind-the-scenes. This truly is a David and Goliath battle.

And how is Steve travelling? Over the years I’ve spoken to him hundreds of times. He is a steady and determined man who strongly believes in his right to farm organically because that way he benefits the environment and our health. This case has taken an enormous toll on him and his wife Sue, both personally and financially, and on their relationships within their local community.

It should never have happened if the Federal and State legislators who designed the gene technology act had put in place strict protocols to control GM production, transport and handling.

You can support Steve at safefoodfoundation.org

On parsley and keeping an open mind...

Dear Clive, I look forward to receiving the Diggers Club magazine and sharing information with the students at South Gippsland Specialist School. We are a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden School and working towards Resource Smart certification.
So it was with such disappointment to see the magazine's focus on exotics for summer gardens. Some of Bill's suggestions were Box, Agapanthus and Lambs Ears! As an amateur gardener I have pruned small Banksias, Grevilleas and Callistemons into similar shapes as his Box. The advantage is the abundance of honey eaters and other birds attracted.
At school it took weeks of work to get rid of invasive Lambs Ears and replace with insect attracting natives.
And while Jeremy says nature does a better job with natives he should revisit Cranbourne Botanical Native gardens to see the stunning landscaping that is possible too. He may also be interested in the beautiful book "Connected – The Sustainable Landscapes of Phillip Johnson" for gardens in the Dandenongs and elsewhere.
Yes, gardens are political!!
Best wishes, Michelle W.

Dear Michelle, thanks for your alternative ideas, supported by pictures, one of which is above. Of course there are lots of plants that shape beautifully and we can but only show you the ones we use in our gardens.
We use Box, Feijoa, Myrtus, Holm Oak and Crab Apple, simply to create specific effects. I like Box because its dark green colour gives a cooler impression on those nasty hot days than our natives, but we have published photos of shaped natives before. I am for lush greens in preference to arid greys, rather than this being a native vs exotic plant prejudice.
Best wishes, Clive

You don't always speak for me

Dear Clive, I joined the Diggers Club because obviously I agree with its principles, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with your views on every issue. Even so, to borrow from Evelyn Beatrice Hall, if I happen to disagree with what you say I still defend your right to say it (although perhaps not to the death).
I have followed the correspondence on this, particularly the letters of Elizabeth T. and Steve C. in the Summer Garden 2015 and Autumn Garden 2015. I’m sorry to say that I thought that your responses to both those letter were disappointing. You have your style, but that doesn’t account for being dismissive of the opinions of others. I agree with Steve C., to whom your response verged on disrespect – in my opinion of course, I speak for no-one but myself – I agree that you either missed or avoided the point Elizabeth T. made.
Perhaps two or three times in the last couple of years I have disagreed with how you presented an issue. I feel there is an adequate and reasonable way for you to keep on being as activist as you like (and good on you for caring). All you need do for me, or Elizabeth, or Steve or any other member is add the footnote that these views are yours and do not necessarily represent the opinions of all Diggers Club members. You are the Editor and you are free to editorialise as much as you like as far as I’m concerned. No-one should accept the status quo without questioning it.
The simple point, however, is that when you present an argument or point of view – an Op-Ed piece – in the magazine, it attaches to all Diggers Club members.
For myself, there are the occasional times when I disapprove of what you say. As I said, I don’t want you not to say it, but I do want you to acknowledge that you don’t always speak for me. Regards, Ian L.

Dear Ian, thanks for your view which I appreciate particularly those that disagree.
I suppose for me a healthy ecology trumps any of the Neo-liberal views that man is at the centre of the universe.
I'm told 50% of our life forms will die over the next 5 decades. As our lives depend on maintaining bio-diversity — I draw the line and believe in getting our planet back into balance as our highest priority. This is not negotiable, which is the reason why we set up the Diggers Foundation.
Best wishes, Clive

40°C in the shade

Dear Diggers, I have done some temperature testing and below are the results. Our postcode is 6308.
27.1°C Garden bed, full sun, north side of house
23.6°C Garden bed, part shade, east side of house
21.8°C Lawn, part shade, south side of house
23.4°C Lawn, full sun, south side of house
29.8°C Under Eucalyptus tree, east side of house (Tuart)
24.8°C Under deciduous tree, south side of house (Cape Lilac)
The day was 41.5°C, previous 3 days were around 35-37 degrees.
Many people say to remove the lawn as it uses so much water (we are on a farm and have a big dam to pull on) but the lawn has only been down a few years and I believe it has cooled our stone house, especially in the evening when we open the windows and get a light breeze over the lawn coming into the house.
The thermometer I used is for measuring soil temperature, heating and ventilation, refrigeration etc.
I can't remember where I got it from, it would many years ago, the make is Bell and it has a probe on a short lead (1 metre) connected to the instrument.
The depth would be 70-100mm, depending how hard the ground was!
Really enjoy your magazine, especially the articles on GMOs and also your willingness in publishing some of the letters and your honest replies.
Kind regards, Stephen L.

Ugliness is the curse
of our gardening universe,
unless we mortals seek
to plant/prune/perspire 5 hours/week,
but don’t buy plants from
B******s / W*****s / C***s
cos their stock might spoil our goals,
we just need the sense aesthetic
to overcome the garden pathetic
so we must do our hours 5
to satisfy a man called Clive.
Anon.

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