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Common Dreams NewsCenter

GE Rice Industry Facing Meltdown as Global Tide of Rejection Grows

Bayer, global pusher of GE rice must admit defeat, says Greenpeace

AMSTERDAM - February 6 - The global rejection of genetically engineered rice is revealed today as 41 of the world’s biggest exporters, processors and retailers issued written commitments to stay GE free. The worldwide tide of opposition is reflected in the new Greenpeace report, ‘Rice Industry in Crisis.’

The report carries extracts of company statements covering Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America (1) and includes a commitment from the world’s largest rice processor, Ebro Puleva, to stop buying US rice. This follows a major contamination incident in 2006, when the world’s rice supply was contaminated with an experimental and illegal variety of GE rice produced by biotech company Bayer.

“Bayer is aggressively pursuing commercial approvals for its GE rice globally, including in Europe and Brazil, yet refuses to accept responsibility for the major financial damage its unauthorised GE rice has caused in the US and elsewhere. Indeed, Bayer is blaming hardworking farmers or ‘acts of God’ for these problems when all signs point to Bayer being at fault,” (4) said Adam Levitt, a partner in the Chicago office of the law firm of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz – one of the law firms leading the prosecution of these cases against Bayer.

“This global contamination and global market rejection of GE rice clearly shows the need for Bayer to withdraw from any further GE rice development,” said Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International rice campaigner. “Bayer proves that GE rice is too risky. Through field trials alone Bayer caused massive financial damage to the global rice industry. The commercial growing of GE rice must never become a reality; the impact on the world’s most important food crop world be disastrous.”

The report also examines the significant economic implications of the Bayer contamination, including when rice futures prices plummeted $150 million -- the sharpest one-day decline in years. Experts have predicted that US rice exports may decline by as much as16% in 2006/2007. (2) Several multi-million dollar class action lawsuits have been filed by US farmers who refuse to bear the financial burden of Bayer’s irresponsible and negligent conduct. The farmers claim that Bayer is responsible for the contamination of rice supplies and the economic losses the U.S. rice farmers have suffered as a result and must compensate farmers for the monetary and other losses that they have sustained as a result of Bayer’s improper conduct. (3)

In addition to the class action lawsuits, several individual lawsuits have also been filed and there are also anecdotal reports that European traders contemplating legal action. As a result of the contamination of the rice supply with Bayer´s GE rice farmers, millers, traders and retailers around the globe are facing massive financial costs, including testing and recall costs, cancelled orders, import bans, brand damage and consumer distrust – distrust that could last for years.

“Governments from around the world must respond to the economic, market and environmental damage caused by the 2006 GE rice contamination and reject outright any GE rice food and cultivation applications currently on the table,” said Tager. “GE rice should not be developed as genetic engineering is an unnecessary, unwanted and outdated technology that threatens the world’s most important staple food.”

Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.

Notes to Editor

(1) Company statements received from the following countries: Japan, Switzerland, France, Hong Kong, Germany, Australia, Pakistan, Thailand, India, Brazil, Spain, Canada and the UK. For statements see pages 7 – 12 of the Rice markets report.

(2) Elias P. 2006. California growers fear biotech rice threat. Washington Post. 15 October, 2006.

(3) Weiss, R. 2006. Firm Blames Farmers, ‘Act of God’ for Rice Contamination. Washington Post. 22 November, 2006. www.washingtonpost.com/ActofGod Leonard, C. 2006. 13 Lawsuits Over Accidental Spread of Genetically Altered Rice Could Be Combined Into 1. Associated Press. 30, November, 2006. www.boston.com/LawsuitGErice

(4) Countries in which Bayer CropScience has applied for authorization for cultivation or food/feed consumption. All approvals are for LL62 unless otherwise noted. 1. Australia – food and feed. Applied 2006
2. Brazil – cultivation, food and feed, seed import, additional field trials. Applied 2006
3. Canada – approval granted for food and feed 2006
4. European Union (25 states) – food and feed. Applied 2004
5. New Zealand – food and feed. Applied 2006
6. Philippines – food and feed. Applied 2006
7. South Africa – food and feed. Applied 2006
8. United States – approvals granted for cultivation, food and feed. Approvals – LL601, 62, 06 (2006, 2002)