GMO Contamination Lawsuit Failure Renews Farming Fairness Debate

Steve Marsh, an Australian organic farmer in Australia, just lost his GMO contamination lawsuit. Farmers, biotech companies, and food safety advocates from around the world have watched the case evolved over the past four years with high anticipation. Marsh maintains that GMO canola had blown onto his land, contaminating his organic crops and destroying his organic certification status.

In addition to seeking a fiscal remedy for his GMO contaminated crop and lost livestock, Marsh also wanted the Western Australia Supreme Court to order a permanent injunction against the planting of more genetically engineered crops by Baxter. The organic farmer sued his neighbor Michael Baxter for $85,000 in lost income after his crops of oats, rye, and organically raised sheep became contaminated with drifting GMO canola particles. Steve Marsh owns a farm in Kojonup, a rural area in the vicinity of Perth.

Justice Kenneth Martin sided with the GMO farmer when delivering a 150-page judgment on Mary 28. According to Martin, no “unreasonable interference” with Marsh’s crops and livestock had occurred. The organic farmer contends that 70 percent of his farm was lost of the governing agriculture agency yanked his organic certification.

An excerpt from the GMO contamination lawsuit judgment reads:

“They did not claim to have suffered any physical damage or injury to themselves, to their animals, or to their land at Eagle Rest. 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. 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 (swathing), which was entirely orthodox in its implementation. 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.”

After the ruling in the GMO cross-contamination had been read, Michael Baxter addressed the media outside of the courthouse. The canola farmer claimed that 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,” the GMO farmer said.

Western Australia Pastoral and Graziers Association Director John Snooke heralded the organic farming lawsuit loss. He said he welcomed the decision by the court and noted there are more than 1,000 GMO farmers in the region who are “embracing the new technology.”

A statement by the National Network of Concerned Farmers indicates that Steve Marsh will appeal the GMO contamination lawsuit verdict. Group representative Julie Newman said, “This should never have been farmer against farmer, the government should have sorted this issue out. 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.”

Do you think organic farmers should be compensated due to GMO contamination?

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