University of Western Australia and Queen Mary University
This article looks at two 2014 cases concerning the threat to organic farming from genetically modified (GM) agriculture. The first, March v. Baxter in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal of Western Australia, concerned a dispute between two neighboring farmers in which one claimed that the loss of his organic certification was attributed to the harvesting practices of his GMproducing neighbor. The second, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto, concerned an unsuccessful application by a number of farmers’ organizations in the United States seeking a declaration that, should their crops become contaminated by the adventitious presence of patented genetic material, they should not be sued for patent infringement. The Australian case, which was a world’s first between neighboring farmers, made some useful comments on organic certification practices. The US decisions in the Southern District of New York and the Court of Appeals laid to rest some of the concerns that had been raised in the Canadian Schmeiser case about the liability of farmers for innocent patent infringement.
Key words: GM agriculture, organic agriculture, Australia, United States, intellectual property, negligence.