WA organic farmer aims to sue neighbour for ‘GM contamination’

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 28th July 2011

Western Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh is suing his neighbour after genetically modified (GM) canola seed is alleged to have contaminated his property in late 2010, leading to the loss of his organic certification.

Marsh has alleged that his neighbour’s negligence resulted in the GM contamination of his land. Slater & Gordon Lawyers and the anti-GM fund-raising organisation The Safe Food Foundation are assisting in his in his attempt to seek damages for financial losses.

“I am pleased and relieved that the Safe Food Foundation is fundraising to help my cause and making it possible for me to take legal action through Slater & Gordon Lawyers. I just hope my case helps other farmers out there because if this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” said Marsh.

Australian organic industry standards currently take a zero-tolerance approach to GM contamination. This is in contrast to European standards, which permit 0.9 per cent GM contamination of organic-labelled products, said Joe Lederman, managing principal of leading Australian food lawyers FoodLegal.

According to Croplife, the Australian plant science industry advocate, “zero tolerances do not benefit any sort of agriculture. If zero tolerances were widely adopted our world leading food producers would spend more time in a court room than a paddock. This is not the future that Australian agriculture, or the world that we help feed, requires.”

Taking an opposite stance, Greenpeace food campaigner Laura Kelly said that GM foods needed to be proven safe.

“Greenpeace is calling for laws to protect Australian farmers who lose their profits and property rights when their natural crop is contaminated with,” said Kelly today.

“We are also defending Australian consumers’ right to know by demanding better GM labelling laws. We all have a right to know if we’re eating GM food that has never been proven safe”.

Lederman said that while a greater legal tolerance for GM contamination could provide farmers with more commercial protection from GM admixture, currently the legal avenue and principal means of redress was a remedy under torts law.