GardenDrumGMO v Organic and Friend v Friend

Canola field Photo Petr Kratochvil

Canola field Photo Petr Kratochvil

In Western Australia, a GMO v Organic and Friend v Friend court case is playing out , as organic farmer Steve Marsh sues his neighbour and former friend Michael Baxter for allowing his GM canola crop to contaminate Marsh’s organic fields in early 2011. Has a GMO farmer a duty of care to a neighbour who’s growing an organic crop not to contaminate it?

Apart from the rights of one farmer to have his organic status protected, and the other to grow legal GM crops if he chooses, the case has both Australian and international interest as it also involves:

1. criteria for organic certification and Standard Australia’s international reputation as a ‘zero tolerance’ organic certifier, compared to other countries like the USA, EU and Japan which allow organic certification with small amounts of GM contamination

2. recommended buffer zones between GM crops and non-GM growers – Monsanto recommends 5 metres compared to Standards Australia’s 15 metres. Recommended buffer zones are often confusing as they vary between states, and also for different crops, and there are no regulations, only recommendations.

3. harvest methods – the swathing method used by Baxter to harvest his canola crop is much more likely to allow seed drift.

Marsh is unable to sue Monsanto as each of its farmers signs a non-liability contract.

The case, which is being heard in the West Australian Supreme Court has been told that Marsh lost certification for 70% of his paddocks after inspection showed germination of Round-up Ready canola, bought from Monsanto by Baxter.

The WA Supreme Court is making transcripts available online due to the huge public interest in the case.

Marsh is being supported by FoodLegal and the Safe Food Foundation.

Baxter is being supported by the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia.

Read more at AgWeek

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