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Court Rules: Organic Farms Not Protected From Cross-Contamination

Australia Steve Marsh

Image source: Boston.com

An organic farmer has lost a GMO lawsuit which supporters worldwide hoped would be a landmark victory for all-natural farming.

Farmer Steve Marsh of Australia believed that genetically modified canola had drifted onto his land, contaminating his naturally grown crops and ultimately costing him his organic certification.

As previously reported by Off The Grid News, farmers have attempted to sue Monsanto and GMO seed competitor DuPont on GMO contamination or cross-contamination grounds in the United States, but no American farmer has emerged from the courtroom victorious.

Marsh sued his former friend and neighbor Michael Baxter for $85,000 after his crops of rye and oats were allegedly contaminated. Marsh operates a farm in Kojonup, about a three hour drive from Perth, Australia.

In addition to seeking a fiscal remedy for his GMO-contaminated crop, the Australian organic farmer also wanted the Western Australia Supreme Court to order a permanent injunction against the planting of more genetically engineered crops by Baxter.

Justice Kenneth Martin sided with the GMO farmer when delivering a 150-page judgment on May 28. According to Martin, no “unreasonable interference” with Marsh’s crops and livestock had occurred.

The Australian organic farmer lost the organic status on 70 percent of his growing area, costing him $85,000 in earnings, he said.

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“[Marsh and his family] did not claim to have suffered any physical damage or injury to themselves, to their animals, or to their land,” Martin ruled. “GM canola only posed a risk of transferring genetic material if a canola seed germinated in the Eagles Rest soil … and then later cross-fertilized through its pollen being exchanged with another compatible species.”

The GMO farmer’s application of his crop was “entirely orthodox in its implementation,” the judge said.

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

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Baxter addressed the media outside of the courthouse, saying the lengthy lawsuit had “destroyed” his life.

“It has been a real tough three-and-a-half years. My marriage has fallen apart. I just want to get back to normal. You don’t expect your neighbor to sue you,” Baster said.

Lynn MacLaren, an MP in the Western Australian Parliament, disagreed with the ruling.

“This is a saddening result for Steve Marsh and non-GMO farmers holding their breath in hopes of defense against Monsanto,” MacLaren said.

A statement by the National Network of Concerned Farmers (NNCF) indicated that Marsh will appeal the ruling.

“This should never have been farmer against farmer, the government should have sorted this issue out,” said Julie Newman of the NNCF. “If you lost part of your crop through spray drift you get compensation. When GM crops contaminate your crop you get nothing. This is ridiculous.”

Croplife Australia deemed the organic farming courtroom failure a “victory for common sense.”

Croplife Australia Chief Executive Matthew Cossey said: “It confirms the longstanding tradition of coexistence of all farming methods. The decision, however, reinforces the need for the federal government to take urgent action to prevent future unnecessary conflict caused by Australia’s flawed organic standards.”

Do you think organic farmers should be compensated when their GMO peers cause a loss of profits and food destined for the family dinner table? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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