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Thursday, September 16, 2010

LibertyLink GMP Rice Harms Farmers

Just Say NO to GMO 10-10-10

US - 1 in 7 in Poverty, Food Stamp allowance raised.


Fallout continues for Arkansas rice farmers

Farmers feel economic effects of Liberty Link genes found five years ago

Published: Friday, September 10, 2010
Curt Hodges

JONESBORO — Three Northeast Arkansas rice farmers say that despite nearly five years that have gone by since the Liberty Link genes were found  in commercially-grown long-grain rice in several states in August 2006, they are still feeling the effects.

“It has affected us economically,” said Clover Bend farmer Stan Jones. “We lost our markets and our reputation in the world of producing desirable, high quality long grain rice.”

Their reputations as producers were damaged by something that they had no control over, Jones, along with Greg Gill and Ray Stone, also Lawrence County rice growers, said Wednesday.

They also said several of their friends and fellow rice growers literally lost everything when rice markets collapsed and crops could not be sold in the aftermath of the discovery of genetically modified traits in commercial rice in the south.

“Here we are four years later and still having to have our rice certified as being free of genetically modified traits,” Stone said. “This is something that happened to us, and we had no control over it whatsoever. We’re still feeling the effects of it.”

The big effect, the farmers said, was not just their reputations and those of other rice growers in the south, but there was a stiff price to pay economically in lost markets and lower prices for all rice that resulted from the fallout of the tainted rice situation involving the Liberty Link experiments by Bayer CropScience that apparently went awry.

The European Union said no longer accepts U.S. rice. The market in Japan for American rice has also been hurt by discovery of the genetically modified traits in commercial rice.

Rice saved for seed has to be certified as free of genetically modified traits, and that certification has to be done at the cost of the farmer.

“It is the farmer that has to pay to have that done,” Stone pointed out, adding that it was not the farmer’s fault that the traits became spread through other varieties and ended up in commercial rice.

The announcement of the discovery of the stray traits was made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in August 2006 that Bayer’s LibertyLink traits had been found in commercially-grown long-grain rice in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Missouri. Five days later the European Union rejected rice grown by U.S. rice farmers and announced that a ban on U.S. imports would be instituted.

The farmers say that the EU ban is still in place, despite the fact that extensive testing has shown U.S. long-grain rice to be free of genetically modified traits.

They had no knowledge of nor intent to grow the genetically modified varieties that were in question, the farmers said Wednesday. But they have had to suffer the brunt of the entire situation from the low prices, rejection and damage to their reputations as growers of what was once considered the world’s premium variety, U.S. long-grain rice.

They are further aggravated by the fact that while Bayer does not dispute that rice seed supplies were contaminated with LibertyLink, the company maintains that growers were not economically harmed by the fact and have yet to explain how the contamination occurred nor to provide assurances that contamination will not happen again.

In 2006 the farmers said they had rice that they planned to sell in the markets that supplied the European Union and other parts of the world with American rice. Those markets, premium markets they say, were virtually closed to them and remain so today. Their rice then had to be sold at lower values, causing them economic damage that they still have not recovered from and they continue to pay the price for it.

Jones said the major variety he grew back then was Cheniere, which just happened to be the variety in which the contamination was found. Although he was certain that his rice had no such contamination, he had a difficult time selling his rice and the fallout from that is still being felt.

To date, said Clayton J. Smaistrla, attorney with Goldman Pennebaker and Phipps of San Antonio and McAllen, Texas, who represent the three Lawrence County farmers and others in the situation, six juries have awarded a total of $54.2 million against Bayer in six trials on the issue. The next Arkansas trial is set for Sept. 20 in Pine Bluff. Additional trials are pending in Arkansas.

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