Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Australian Supreme Court Rules Against Organic Farmer in GE Contamination Suit

Food

The global fight to establish better protections from genetic contamination caused by genetically engineered (GE) crops suffered a legal setback in Australia this week. A ruling of the Supreme Court of Western Australia found that farmer Steve Marsh could not seek compensation after losing his organic certification as a result of a neighbor’s GE crops contaminating his organic wheat crops.

Steve Marsh took his neighbor Michael Baxter, a GE canola seed farmer, to court after loosing his organic certification from contamination of his crops by Baxter's Monsanto Roundup Ready canola seeds.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Marsh filed the lawsuit against Michael Baxter, a neighboring GE canola seed farmer, alleging that he had suffered economic damage because of his organic decertification. The decertification had been brought on by the confirmed presence of GE canola plants and seeds on his property and Australia’s zero-tolerance organic standard concerning GE contamination on organic lands. Baxter began farming GE canola just a few years before and was the likely source of the contamination.

Argued before the court earlier this year, the litigants as well as environmental and organic advocates across the globe had anxiously awaited the court’s decision. Supporters of the suit hoped it might advance much-needed protections against the economically devastating and oft uncontrolled invasion of GE crops on organic and non-GE lands. Opponents of the suit claim it would have burdened GE farmers with more rules and potentially restricted the amount of crops a farmer could plant.

Organic farmers and consumers did not receive the ruling that is needed to protect the viability of organic production systems. Instead of reinforcing the Australian organic zero-GE-tolerance standard and shifting the burden to GE farmers and the makers of GE crops, like Monsanto, to protect against the pollution their products create or pay the price, the court ruled that no physical harm had been shown and the burden rested on the plaintiff to clean up the GE-mess to reinstate his certification.

Justice Martin also added in his judgment that decertification of Marsh’s Eagle Rest farm appeared to be a “gross overreaction” by Australia’s organic certification body, observed Reuters journalists.

In the U.S. and under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification standards, GE crops and their byproducts are prohibited. However, unlike Australia, USDA organic regulators take a process-based approach to GE contamination and, while organic farmers are expected to protect their farms without real guidance or established efficacy, there are currently no established contamination or allowable threshold standards. 

And the fight has not limited itself to the defensive. To add insult to injury, farmers who have not purchased GE seeds and find them on their land face potential litigation from the seed producers for patent infringement. One case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto, sought to protect non-GE and organic farmers from this absurd abuse of power and to establish protections against Monsanto, one of the world’s primary producer of GE seeds and aggressive GE patent-infringement litigant. (According to Reuters, between 1997 and 2010 the agrichemical giant filed 144 patent-infringement lawsuits against farmers that it said made use of its seed without paying royalties.) While this case garnered Monsanto assurances to not pursue patent infringement cases where trace amounts of its GE crops or seed were discovered, the results failed to achieve any meaningful protections.

The uncertainty of the courts willingness to protect non-GE and organic farmers, both at home and abroad, has not overshadowed recent successes outside of the courts, in the form of county bans on GE crops and GE labeling bills.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

How Organic Farming Can Reverse Climate Change

Survey Shows Organic Farmers Pay the Price for GMO Contamination

Organic Farmer Taken to Court for Refusing to Spray Pesticides

--------

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A polar bear is seen stopping to drink near the north pole. Christopher Michel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The fossil fuel industry is driving polar bears to cannibalism.

Read More
Mathias Appel / Flickr

Get ready for double the cuteness! Red pandas, the crimson-colored, bushy-tailed forest dwellers who gave Firefox its name, actually consist of two different species.

Read More
Sponsored
A view of a washed out road near Utuado, Puerto Rico, after a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew dropped relief supplies to residents Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. The locals were stranded after Hurricane Maria by washed out roads and mudslides. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodall / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Coral Natalie Negrón Almodóvar

The Earth began to shake as Tamar Hernández drove to visit her mother in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Dec. 28, 2019. She did not feel that first tremor — she felt only the ensuing aftershocks — but she worried because her mother had an ankle injury and could not walk. Then Hernández thought, "What if something worse is coming our way?"

Read More
Flooded battery park tunnel is seen after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. CC BY 2.0

President Trump has long touted the efficacy of walls, funneling billions of Defense Department dollars to build a wall on the southern border. However, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a study that included plans for a sea wall to protect New Yorkers from sea-level rise and catastrophic storms like Hurricane Sandy, Trump mocked it as ineffective and unsightly.

Read More
A general view of fire damaged country in the The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area near the town of Blackheath on Feb. 21, 2020 in Blackheath, Australia. Brook Mitchell / Getty Images

In a post-mortem of the Australian bushfires, which raged for five months, scientists have concluded that their intensity and duration far surpassed what climate models had predicted, according to a study published yesterday in Nature Climate Change.

Read More