In what may prove to be a landmark decision, a jury has awarded a
Santa Cruz organic farm $1 million for damages suffered when pesticides from surrounding farms drifted onto its crops. After Jacobs Farm (which grows organic herbs and edible flowers) trashed huge quantities of culinary herbs when the herbs tested positive for organophosphate pesticides, and regulators refused to act, the
farm decided to sue Western Farm Service, the company
that sprays pesticide on adjoining conventional crops.
Strikingly, Western Farm Service wasn’t accused of inadvertently
spraying the organic herbs—that’s not how the contamination
occurred. Instead, the pesticides “evaporated from crops one to three days after being sprayed and then were carried over by winds to the organic farm,” Jacobs Farm’s attorney told the San Francisco Chronicle. That’s apparently a known characteristic of organophosphates, but regulations don’t provide any protection for organic farmers. So you can almost sympathize with Western Farm Service when it argues that “assessing the uses and risks of pesticides should be the job of federal, state, and county regulators, not local juries.”
Then again, it also claims that Jacobs Farm is at fault for “coming to the conventional (farming) area with incompatible crops.”