rice

Eleven thousand U.S. farmers celebrated victory as word came that they will receive a settlement of $750 million due to crop drift from Bayer’s genetically modified LibertyLink rice that contaminated their rice seeds in 2006.

Bayer’s CropScience division partnered with Louisiana State University to breed a strain of rice that would be resistant to Bayer’s LibertyLink pesticide. The GMO rice strains were found in non-GMO long-grain rice grown throughout Southern states including Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. In one of the biggest cross-contamination accidents in history, more than 30 percent of U.S. rice crops were tainted and became unsellable, causing market prices to drop nearly 15 percent and resulting in profit losses of an estimated $150 million for the farmers.

The GM rice led to a significant drop in exports around the world, including sales to the European Union, where genetically modified foods are banned in all countries but Spain.

As lawsuits starting coming in, Bayer denied its testing program had been the cause of the contamination and maintained its claim that there was no human health risk to anyone who had come in contact with the rice.

A spokesperson for Bayer CropScience said the company acted responsibly handling the LibertyLink rice, and, “considers it important to resolve the litigation so that it can move forward focused on its fundamental mission of providing innovative solutions to modern agriculture.”

Exposure to genetically modified foods and companion pesticides have been linked to a number of health risks including infertility, neurological disorders, birth defects and cancer.

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Photo: Jill Ettinger