The landmark case has been decided in favor of genetically modified (“GM”)crop production. As described in It Was Bound to Happen, Steve Marsh sued his neighbor, Michael Baxter, for alleging his organic fields were decertified because of contamination from Baxter’s Roundup Ready canola.
Marsh never grew canola, and the scientific evidence presented at trial proved “none of the Marshes crops or sheep…could acquire any genetic traits of Roundup Ready canola.” The judge also determined Baxter could not “be held responsible, in law” for the unjustifiable decertification of Marsh’s crops on the basis of eight Roundup Ready canola plants found on Marsh’s property.
In sum, the judge ruled “Mr. Baxter was not to be held responsible…merely for growing a lawful GM crop and choosing to adopt a harvest methodology, which was entirely orthodox in its implementation.” WAtoday.com: WA organic farmer loses genetically modified canola fight in court.
No doubt, the verdict is a win for producers of Roundup Ready crops. However, it’s important to remember the decision doesn’t foreclose all cases regarding GM crop contamination of organic production. It is apparent the ruling may have been different if Marsh had produced organic canola which was substantially contaminated, or if Baxter’s production was outside the norm.
The judge’s comments regarding the “unjustified” decertification may have the most impact on organic farming in Australia. The decision may invoke a change in Australia’s organic certification requirements from a zero-GM standard to a standard that can accommodate neighboring GM and organic producers.