October 26, 2011

Settlement of Litigation Over Genetically Contaminated U.S. Rice Crop

An update on the litigation involving the genetic contamination of the commercial rice crop in the U.S. by genetically engineered (GE) rice, specifically LibertyLink, produced by Bayer CropSciences. LibertyLink was engineered with a gene that confers herbicide resistance, meaning that weed killers can be used on the field without injury to the crop. The initial complaint alleged the contamination of native rice crops by the GE rice. The harms to rice farmers were numerous, including an immediate export ban imposed by the EU. The multi-district litigation, In re Genetically Modified Rice Litigation, ended in a settlement in which Bayer must pay $750 million; the time frame for farmers to register a claim will end in November; a stipulation of the settlement is that 85% of an identified set of claimants must register for the settlement to take effect. This litigation took several years in federal court, under the jurisdiction of the Eastern District of Missouri. The contamination was discovered in 2006. The Bayer GE rice was classified as a nonregulated crop by the Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS), an agency with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). APHIS refused to deregulate the crop in 2006, despite calls to do so.  By 2007, APHIS confirmed the contamination of the native rice crop by the GE strains. Bayer's corporate predecessor, Aventis Crop Science, was the source of the Starlink contamination of the U.S. corn crop in 2000.

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