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article imageBayer settles with farmers over genetically modified rice seeds

The Bayer CropScience subgroup of the German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG agreed to pay U.S. farmers $750 million to settle complaints that strains of the company's bioengineered rice tainted and decreased the export value of their crops.
The settlement covers cases in U.S. state courts and a federal multi-district lawsuit, as well as farmers who have not yet sued, though Bayer CropScience did not admit any wrongdoing and "believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice," according to a written statement by the company.
Deutche Welle (DW-World.de) reported:
About 11,000 rice growers in the U.S. states of Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi sued Bayer CropScience, claiming their long-grain rice crops were contaminated by the company's LibertyLink genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant rice, between 2006 and 2010.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the problem in August 2006, but the farmers contended Bayer waited two months, and possibly much longer, before informing the USDA of the findings.
The growers claimed they lost $150 million within four days of the news release, as rice futures suddenly declined and U.S. rice exports to Japan, Russia and the European Union dropped substantially, because genetically modified foods are not widely accepted by consumers in those countries.
According to the USDA, the presence of proteins from two strains of LibertyLink rice posed no concerns related to human health, food safety, or environmental harm, and the regulatory agency declined to take enforcement action against Bayer.
In an online briefing, the USDA states that rice, a staple crop worldwide, is grown in the United States as a "high-cost, high-yielding, large-scale production" that relies heavily on the global market.
In related news:
The Delta Farm Press reported that a strain of conventional rice grown by Louisiana State University tested positive for LibertyLink protein traces in 2003.
The National Research Council gave GE crops and biotechnology methods a mixed review in a report cited by both pro and con arguers, Digital Journal reported.
Biotech's supporters and detractors have long presented multifaceted arguments, with experts' predictions ranging widely -- from the end of worldwide hunger to the beginning ecological doomsday -- showing the complexity of this issue, according to CNN.
Rice is being genetically engineered for other purposes, besides herbicide-tolerance and disease-resistance, including as an allergy treatment for humans, NewScientist reported.
In an odd twist, researchers at Lund University in Sweden claimed they demonstrated instances of nature engaging in genetic engineering on plants spontaneously, possibly with the assistance of pests that could be transferring genetic material plant to plant, according to ScienceDaily.
More about Genetically, Biotechnology, Biotech, Biotech Rice, GM rice
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