Agricultural law – Contaminated Seeds and Legal Issues

Australia’s Agricultural Industry earns over $155 billion-a-year and certain sectors of the industry could be under significant threat due to contaminated seeds.

What are contaminated seeds?

In most cases, contaminated seeds are the result of:

  1. cross pollination of genetically engineered seeds with unchanged seeds.
  2. mixing and collection of seeds.

For cross pollination, this can create new seeds whose DNA have altered significantly from the parent seed, and this alteration could potentially be passed down through generations. This mutation can affect plant growth, development and could have a detrimental environmental impact.

For seeds that are contaminated in the mixing and collection process of the seed, the contaminant could be any number of other seeds or micro-organisms, which could drastically alter the nature and purity of the original seed.

Contaminated seeds:

  • can carry disease,
  • can produce low grade harvests, (which may also in turn produce sterile seeds).
  • If contaminated with weed seed, the contaminated seed can be resistant to pesticides and normal processes of crop control.

What does this mean to the farmer?

When a supplier creates a genetically modified seed, they have a duty of care to those who they supply, to ensure the purity, quality and integrity of the seed.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, a farmer is considered a manufacturer, not a consumer and so therefore would not fall under usual product liability provisions. For this reason, farmers are looking to our legal system to seek compensation, and in many instances, proceeding with other farmers in a ‘class action’ against a supplier.

Causes of action by farmers against suppliers:

  1. Negligence – (i.e – Was the supplier negligent in their duty of care?)
  2. Misleading or deceptive conduct – (i.e – Was the supplier aware of the contamination and failed to advise?)
  3. False or misleading representation about goods. – (i.e – Did the supplier misrepresent the quality and purity of the seeds?).

If you believe that your property may be affected by seed that has been contaminated, please contact Dan Creevey at Creevey Russell Lawyers for a no obligation discussion on your concerns. Creevey Russell and the team in Rural Property Law, have a wide experience in advising primary producers. Dan Creevey and his family have owned properties in the Winton, Injune, Taroom and Theodore districts. With around 30 years experience in the legal industry, Dan Creevey provides practical, ‘plain English’ advice and wants his clients to feel that they have someone truly prepared to fight for them.

Dan Creevey 07 4617 8777


Agricultural Law

Contaminated Seeds

Rural Property Team