Farmer to sue over GM rape?

24 May 2000

Farmer to sue over GM rape?

A FARMER who destroyed genetically modified oilseed rape he unwittingly planted has threatened legal action.

Arable grower John Sanderson became the first farmer to plough in 11ha of contaminated rape on his farm near Harleston, Norfolk on Tuesday (23 May).

Advanta Seeds has admitted that up to 600 British farmers unknowingly planted as many as 4700ha of GM-contaminated rape this spring.

Mr Sanderson is considering legal action because he is afraid his farm may lose its GM-free status.

However, there is no legislation to protect farmers caught in this type of situation, and no legal precedent.

Mr Sanderson fears public perception of GM crops could damage his future business, reports the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

He is concerned his farms environmental credentials, most recently through work with the RSPB, could be undermined.

Mr Sanderson had been considering rearing organic beef, but fears he may not be allowed to do so because of the presence of GM crops.

“The possible repercussions of having this crop on the farm may be more damaging than the value of the crop itself,” he said

Mr Sanderson said he would not rule out growing a GM crop at some later stage if safety concerns were satisfied and there was a market them.

Charles Pugh, a barrister who specialises in environmental issues, told Farming Today an attempt to sue would enter uncharted legal territory.

On one hand, a farmer could claim under the Sale of Goods Act that a product was not fit for the purpose it was sold.

But there was no deciding case to say that, if the seed included GM seed, this was in breach of contract, he said.

Matters were complicated because the farmer would be concerned about the crop created, and liabilities attached to that.

And if the farmer sought to sue the original supplier overseas, that would mean going to another jurisdiction, under which GMOs could be considered safe.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that farm minister Nick Brown faced MPs to answer questions on the GM contamination.

Appearing before the agriculture select committee, Mr Brown said he was not responsible for the health or environmental impact of the blunder.

Mr Brown insisted he was only responsible for seed safety and that the rogue seeds posed no threat to food safety or the environment.

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