Genetically Modified Crops and Nuisance: Exploring the Role of Precaution in Private Law

Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Vol. 27, p. 202, 2007

27 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2008

See all articles by Alastair Neil Craik

Alastair Neil Craik

University of Waterloo - School of Environment, Enterprise and Development; Balsillie School of International Affairs

Norman Siebrasse

University of New Brunswick - Fredericton - Faculty of Law

Keith C. Culver

University of New Brunswick

Date Written: June 1, 2007

Abstract

This paper critically considers calls for the precautionary principle to inform judicial decision-making in a private law context in light of the claims in Hoffman v. Monsanto, where it is alleged that the potential for genetic contamination from GM crops causes an unreasonable interference with the rights of organic farmers to use and enjoy their lands, giving rise to an actionable nuisance. Applying the precautionary principle in this context would likely privilege non-GM land uses over GM uses, in light of the latter's uncertain environmental impacts. Through a comparison of the institutional characteristics and respective roles of public and private regulation, we argue that the private law context, which lacks democratic accountability and has a limited ability to address complex scientific issues, is poorly suited to apply the diffuse, policy-based risk allocation considerations raised by the precautionary principle.

Keywords: Precautionary principle, Canadian private law, nuisance, genetic contamination

Suggested Citation

Craik, Alastair Neil and Siebrasse, Norman and Culver, Keith C., Genetically Modified Crops and Nuisance: Exploring the Role of Precaution in Private Law (June 1, 2007). Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Vol. 27, p. 202, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1285550

Alastair Neil Craik (Contact Author)

University of Waterloo - School of Environment, Enterprise and Development ( email )

200 University Av. W.
Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1
Canada
519.888.4567, Ext. 36578 (Phone)

Balsillie School of International Affairs ( email )

67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2
Canada

Norman Siebrasse

University of New Brunswick - Fredericton - Faculty of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4400
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5A3
Canada
506-453-4725 (Phone)
506-453-4548 (Fax)

Keith C. Culver

University of New Brunswick ( email )

Bailey Drive
P.O. Box 4400
Fredericton, N.B. E3B 5A3
Canada

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