An organic farmer in Kojonup, Western Australia, is suing his neighbour for loss of income and damages after his property was allegedly contaminated with genetically modified (GM) canola.
Steve Marsh is claiming financial compensation after losing organic certification for about 70 per cent of his farm. He alleges his property was contaminated by GM canola material from Michael Baxter’s neighbouring property in November 2010.
At the time, Mr Marsh’s property was certified organic by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), which has a zero tolerance for GM material. NASSA guidelines state organic farms which lose their certification because of contamination from genetically modified material, could not regain their organic certification for five years.
Update: He sued for $85 000 AUD for three years of lost income, and lost the case; he now faces an $800 000 AUD bill for legal fees and damages.
I don’t totally agree with his cause, and I think the organic certification rules are too strict if they can’t accommodate for windblown seeds.
However, genetic drift is a huge issue when GMO crops self-seed. Companies like Monsanto aren’t as aggressive with patent enforcement as some crackpots would have you believe, but nonetheless, they have the legal potential to sue when their patented products cross-pollinate with conventional crops, which is enough to make people cautious.
Organic farmers aren’t allowed to plant GMO seeds. But most conventional corn in America is genetically modified, and among all grains, corn is perhaps the most promiscuous cross-pollinator, so its genes often migrate into organic fields via windblown pollen that lands on the tassels of organic corn.
As a result, most organic corn in the U.S. typically contains anywhere from half a percent to 2 percent GMOs, according to companies that sell such corn to organic dairies or poultry farmers. It has been that way since genetically engineered corn and soybeans became popular, more than a decade ago. [x]