Every year there will be one or two occasions when a professional negligence case reflects something of the way the world is evolving and by doing so presents a picture of humanity being, to some extent, at a crossroads.
It might not be hyperbolic to say that a professional negligence claim being brought by a farmer in Kansas, the United States, falls into that category.
The claimant alleges gross professional negligence on the part of the multinational company Monsanto in relation to reports that genetically modified wheat has been grown outside of official approval and regulatory processes.
As with all claims for professional negligence, there is one crucial detail: the claimant says that farmers have suffered significant financial loss as a result.
“Monsanto has failed our nation’s wheat farmers,” said the farmer’s professional negligence lawyer. “We believe Monsanto knew of the risks its genetically altered wheat posed and failed to protect farmers and their crops from those risks.”
Reportedly, the impact of the contamination has been far-reaching because there has been a detrimental effect on “wheat exports and the price of wheat” as well as the reputation and integrity of wheat farmers. Japan and South Korea have already cancelled their wheat orders from the US.
The discovery of GM wheat was somewhat serendipitous – it was only when a farmer tested crops in a bid to find out why some were resistant to the herbicide glyphosate when scientists discovered the contamination.
Agrarian farming is what has marked and allowed human civilisation to rise, but genetically modified crops could, ultimately, change our whole concept of farming. The outcome of this case could help us decide which path to take at the crossroads.