Blame is the good lord …

Bayer defends itself in GM rice affair

Contamination of long-grain rice by Bayer’s unapproved LL601 GM rice (The Rice Nobody Wanted) has caused significant harm to U.S. rice farmers. Hundreds of southern farmers join class action lawsuits over the ie. Now, a 30-page response letter from Bayer Crop Science to the lawyers gives the first indication of the group’s defense strategy. According to the Washington Post, force majeure, but also allegedly careless farmers, were to blame for the misery.

In mid-August, U.S. authorities were informed of the appearance of Bayer CropScience’s unapproved GM rice line LL601 The rice, originally developed by Aventis CropScience, is among the herbicide-tolerant GM varieties and is insensitive to the weedkiller Liberty Link. LL601 rice was never commercialized and was only field tested between 1998 and 2001. However, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture confirmed that contaminated rice had turned up in a 2005 crop.

The scandal was perfect. Analysis shows significant portion of U.S. rice crop was contaminated. The EU reacted promptly and now imposes compulsory tests on rice imports from the USA. In the absence of a safety assessment under European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rules for LL601, zero tolerance applies. The EU member states must remove the rice from circulation. In Germany, Baden-Wurttemberg became the first state to ie a. In September, it was announced that LL601 rice had been found in seven of 46 samples tested. Several states reported similar results.

The prices for US long grain rice dropped drastically in the beginning. The European sales market collapsed, especially since large food producers immediately switched to suppliers from other countries as a precaution. In the U.S., aggrieved farmers banded together and filed class-action lawsuits worth millions of dollars. Now there is an initial response letter from Bayer. As reported by the Washington Post, the response is three pages long. According to the American newspaper, however, the message can essentially be summarized in three key points. First of all, Bayer rejects any responsibility in the criminal sense. In the company’s view, "unforeseeable circumstances" and ultimately "force majeure" were to blame. But beyond that, "carefree farmers" are also being targeted.

Denying any culpability, the Bayer response variously blames the escape of its gene-altered variety of long-grain race, LL601, on "unavoidable circumstances which could not have been prevented by anyone" "an act of God"; and "farmers" "own negligence, carelessness, and/or comparative fault".

The plaintiff representatives show themselves emport. "Farmers are innocent victims," the paper quotes Don Downing of the law firm Gray, Ritter Graham PC, which brought one of the grossest lawsuits in Missouri. The farmers had not had any indication of any impurities.

The reason for the contamination is not yet known

The fact is that it is still not known exactly how the massive contamination could have occurred, although only field tests with the unapproved variety had been carried out. A trail leads to Louisiana State University, Aventis’ breeding partner at the time. The university announced in August that conventional seeds of the Cheniere 2003 variety had been contaminated with LL601. The seed lots from 2004 and 2005 were free of genetic contamination. The Cheniere rice variety has been grown on several thousand hectares along the Mississippi River since 2004. Farmers in Missouri and Arkansas have been hit particularly hard by the contamination.

In principle, contamination with genetically modified varieties can be caused by pollen drift, sloppy seed selection, shared use of agricultural machinery or storage facilities, etc., but it can also be caused by the use of other methods. arise. What exactly happened with LL601 remains to be seen. First indications of contamination apparently existed as early as January. Why a response from Bayer took until the summer is also being debated in the U.S.

The reactions of U.S. farmers to the EU’s strict approach were initially often marked by annoyance. American authorities tried to limit the damage and emphasized that there is no health risk to be feared. However, it is not a variety that has been tested – not even in the USA. The EU was therefore unable to present a final risk assessment. And even in the U.S., the hastily filed application for Bayer’s approval has not yet been approved. So far, only a preliminary clearance status has been granted by the U.S. authorities – probably in order to prevent even greater economic damage.

In the United States – at least among some representatives of the rice industry – the opinion seems to be gaining ground that consumers cannot be expected to simply eat what is put on the table. Rather, one should cultivate what the consumer desires. Representatives of U.S. rice farmers are putting up some resistance to a proposed supplemental allowance because of this. One representative, for example, said that no one would be helped by it. After all, Bayer had only made the application in the USA, so the export problem was far from being solved. He is concerned not only about the European market, but also about the Canadian market. In Arkansas, a ban on the cultivation of the affected rice variety Cheniere is currently being considered, at least for the 2007 growing season, and possibly even for a year longer.

In addition, there is discussion of following European standards for security assessment. Obviously, primarily economic considerations and customer orientation play a role here. A handler said to the specialized medium, it is not a question of whether the rejection of genetic engineering is rational or not, one must orient oneself to the consumer’s wishes.

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