In September, it was reported that the Supreme Court of Western Australia lifted the normal restraints on cost limits, effectively the amount a successful party can recover against an unsuccessful party in a civil case, to allow a claim to be made for costs estimated to be $803,989.

In June, the Supreme Court of Western Australia wholly dismissed a claim by Mr and Mrs Marsh, farmers in Kojonup, Western Australia who lost their contractual rights to apply the label ‘NASAA Certified Organic’ to their organically grown cereal crops, against neighbouring farmer Mr Baxter, a conventional farmer growing crops that included genetically modified canola.

The two farms are separated by a road reserve of approximately 20 metres. Cut canola on Mr Baxter’s property was stacked in windrows and left to dry. Some of the cut canola was blown by the wind into the Marshes’ property. The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) and it’s certifying subsidiary decertified 70% of the Marshes farm as a result. The Marshes claimed compensation for $85,000 and a permanent injunction. The claim wholly failed.

The court found (in summary) that:-

  • It is lawful in Western Australia for farmers to grow GM canola;
  • It was agreed at trial that the GM canola is physically harmless to persons, animals or land, even if consumed;
  • There was no genetic transference risks as the Marshes had never grown canola;
  • Mr Baxter had used orthodox and well accepted harvest methodology, as advised by a local agronomist;
  • As there was no physical damage, the claim was only for economic loss arising from the private contract between the Marshes and NASAA; and
  • As a result, the Marshes claims in negligence and nuisance were dismissed.

An appeal has been lodged by the Marshes with the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, although the grounds for the appeal have not been made public.