Bayer defends genetic contamination as "Act of God"

Feature story - 6 February, 2007
You might blame the dog for eating your homework, or a traffic jam for being late to work. But if you ever find yourself facing a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit for contaminating the world's number one food crop with an unapproved genetically engineered variety, just do what biotech company Bayer does. Blame God!

According to Bayer, 'acts of God' were to blame for the contamination of rice with their experimental GE variety.

Yes folks it seems that according to Bayer, God hasn't been dealing with the big issues lately. Instead of answering millions of prayers, stopping wars or ending famines, God has left all the important things to gather dust in the heavenly inbox whilst ensuring Bayer's unapproved variety of genetically engineered (GE)  rice goes forth and multiplies around the world instead.

According to documents submitted to the court by Bayer, last year's massive contamination of US rice with an unapproved, experimental variety of rice called LL601 was due to 'acts of God' or the rice farmers themselves.

Pushing the blame onto the rice farmers is no surprise as the farmers are the ones suing Bayer for millions of dollars of lost income. The price of US rice plummeted last year, immediately following the discovery of the GE contamination in rice exported to Europe and Japan, where consumer resistance to Bayer's less-than-divine intervention  in their food is strong.

The LL601 rice was originally grown as an experimental field trial all the way back in 1999-2001. The trial ended with no approval for growing the strain commercially.

That should have been the end of LL601 for good. But five years later, testing of US rice imports across Europe and Japan showed the experimental LL601 very much alive and contaminating.

"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," said Adam Levitt, a partner in the law firm of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz - one of the law firms leading the prosecution of these cases against Bayer.

Shifting the blame isn't new for big business trying to avoid responsibility for their mistakes. But God as scapegoat? That's probably a new low in the GE industry's pursuit of the almighty dollar.

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