Western Australian organic farmer, Steve Marsh has lost a landmark court case against his neighbour and former friend, Michael Baxter for allegedly contaminating his property with genetically modified canola.
Marsh alleged that he lost his organic certification on more than half of his farm after GM canola blew onto his land from Baxter’s neighbouring property.
Following a three week hearing, Justice Kenneth Martin ruled in favour of Baxter, stating that although Marsh and his wife bought two causes of action against their neighbour – common law negligence involving the breach of duty to ensure that the GM seeds were contained on his property, and the tort of private nuisance – they only claimed financial damages, WAToday reports.
"They did not claim to have suffered any physical damage or injury to themselves, to their animals or to their land at Eagle Rest," said Justice Martin.
"GM canola only posed a risk of transferring genetic material if a canola seed germinated in the Eagles Rest soil … and then later cross-fertilised through its pollen being exchanged with another compatible species," Justice Martin said.
"There was no evidence at the trial of any genetic transference risks posed by the RR (roundup ready) canola swathes blown into Eagle Rest at the end of 2010.
"The Marshes had never grown canola upon Eagle Rest."
Justice Martin also noted that the Marshes’ could not prove that there has been “any reasonable interference” by Baxter, and that Baxter had employed industry standard harvest methodology when planting his GM seeds.
"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," he said.
"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."
It has not yet been confirmed if the Marshes’ will appeal the decision.