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Landmark ruling in contamination case

In an unprecedented case, the Supreme Court of Western Australia has ruled in favour of a Genetically Modified (GM) canola farmer in a dispute over the contamination of his neighbour’s organic farm.

The action was launched in 2012 by organic farmer Steve Marsh against his neighbour, Michael Baxter. Mr Marsh alleged that Mr Baxter had allowed GM material to spread onto Mr Marsh’s property, resulting in the loss of his organic certification.

The landmark case has attracted both national and international attention and the impact of its ruling is due to be felt by agricultural industries throughout the world.

Some, including the Pastoralists and Grazier Association’s John Snooke, view the decision as a positive outcome that gives certainty to the modern agricultural industry and allows farmers to continue adopting modern technologies at the pace they choose.

On the other hand, organic produce advocates have criticised the outcome, claiming the decision could leave organic farmers entirely responsible for any financial loss suffered as a result of such contamination.

With both the GM agricultural industry and organic movements growing at a rapid pace, this decision brings to the forefront the issue of how these contrasting approaches to agriculture are to develop alongside each other peacefully in the future.


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Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: July 3, 2014.

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