Issue Date: July 11, 2011
Biotechnology Bayer agrees to pay $750 million to U.S. rice farmers
Bayer CropScience will pay up to $750 million to U.S. rice farmers to resolve claims that the company’s experimental LibertyLink rice contaminated crops, making them unfit for export. The agreement ends several lawsuits representing more than 11,000 long-grain-rice farmers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.
The LibertyLink rice traits were originally developed by AgrEvo, which was bought by Aventis CropScience. Bayer acquired Aventis CropScience in 2001. The rice was genetically modified to be tolerant to glufosinate, the active ingredient in Liberty herbicide. Tests of the rice were conducted at Louisiana State University.
In 2006, Bayer CropScience alerted USDA that LibertyLink rice had contaminated the U.S. rice supply. At the time, no genetically modified rice varieties were being grown commercially in the U.S. In response to the contamination, Japan and Russia banned imports of long-grain rice from the U.S., while Mexico and the European Union required that U.S.-grown rice be tested and proven free of genetically modified traits.
Bayer agreed to the settlement after losing several other court cases brought by rice farmers. In a statement, the company said it “acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice,” but opted to resolve the suits to focus on new products for farmers.
Philipp Mimkes of the German group Coalition against Bayer Dangers cautioned the EU against approving LibertyLink imports. “The incident in the U.S. shows that risks linked with genetically modified crops cannot be controlled in the long term,” he said.
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