A Kojonup farmer is suing his neighbour for allegedly contaminating his crops with genetically modified material in what could become a landmark case for organic farming in Australia.
Lawyers for farmer Steve Marsh today lodged a Supreme Court writ seeking to recover loss and damages from his neighbour, GM canola farmer Michael Baxter.
Mr Marsh claims a GM canola seed blew into his farm in 2010, contaminating his land and causing the partial loss of his organic status.
Today, safe Food Foundation Director Scott Kinnear said the case could determine the future of organic farming in Australia.
"If it (the case) is lost then what we can do in Australia is going to be severely restricted," Mr Kinnear said.
Mr Marsh’s lawyers will argue Mr Baxter should have gone to greater lengths to protect his neighbour from contamination, and a five metre buffer zone between their crops was not enough.
"What is on trial to some degree is a five metre buffer zone which I think most people think is ridiculous," Mr Kinnear said.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Mark Walter said the case went to the heart of allowing farmers to farm their land how they wished.
"It’s often said that this is a matter of choice between competing farm users we say, yes, he has as much choice to farm GM canola as we have to farm organic...but he has to take into account his obligations at law...and the vulnerability of his neighbour."
Mr Marsh first found GM canola seeds on his property in December 2010. The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture removed accreditation from more than 70 per cent of his farm resulting in what Mr Walter described as "significant," losses as he could no longer sell his oats and wheat at the premium price demanded for organic produce.