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Minnesota Court Says Pesticide Drift is NOT Trespassing After All

Even if you catch my (pesticide) drift in your lungs or on your skin, it’s not my problem according to a Minnesota court (National Pesticide Information Center photo).

Second-Hand Pesticides Are An Unfortunate Fact of Life

If someone fires a gun or an arrow in your direction that’s clearly violating your space. If someone tosses garbage or a rock toward your house, that violates your rights. If someone even so much as steps foot on your property against your will, well, that’s trespassing and can land the offender in jail.

Reversing a ruling that gave organic farmers hope, however, the Minnesota Supreme Court said yesterday that it’s OK when one farmer allows his or her pesticides to drift to another farm. Or, to put it a different way, what the Court really said amounted to “no harm, no foul” or “out of sight, out of mind.”

Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, who wrote the head-scratching opinion, declared pesticide drift to be “intangible and cannot be a form of trespassing.” Here’s the story from the state’s largest newspaper:

The justices did allow that in some extreme cases farmers could sue other farmers for being negligent and causing financial damages, but the burden of proof required would seem to make it a virtual impossibility that cases would ever go to trial.

Beyond the farm, the ruling is seen as a major blow to neighborhoods across the United States where neighbors unwittingly subject their neighbors to toxic drift of lawn and garden chemicals, what we call “second-hand pesticides,” on an almost constant basis. To the Minnesota Supreme Court’s way of thinking, that’s just an intangible part of American life these days.

Note: Here’s a link to the National Pesticide Information Center’s web site on pesticide drift:

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Carrie

    This is a really ridiculous line of reasoning on the part of the Minnesota Justice. You could argue the same thing about cigarette smoke. Just because it’s “intangible” doesn’t mean it’s not real or a threat. (this Justice clearly hasn’t had to rule on any intellectual property cases where “intangibles” amount to billions in intellectual property in the form of marketing, branding, know-how, etc).

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