GE rice industry facing meltdown as global tide of rejection grows

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

Press release - 6 February, 2007
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.’

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

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

“Bayer is aggressively pursuing commercial approvals for its GE riceglobally, including in Europe and Brazil, yet refuses to accept responsibilityfor the major financial damage its unauthorised GE rice has caused in the USand 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 AdamLevitt, a partner in the Chicago office of the law firm of Wolf HaldensteinAdler Freeman & Herz – one of the law firms leading the prosecution ofthese cases against Bayer.

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

The reportalso 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 riceexports may decline by as much as16% in 2006/2007. (2) Several multi-million dollarclass action lawsuits have been filed by US farmers who refuse to bear thefinancial burden of Bayer’s irresponsible and negligent conduct. The farmersclaim that Bayer is responsible for the contamination of rice supplies and theeconomic losses the U.S. rice farmers have suffered as a result and mustcompensate farmers for the monetary and other losses that they have sustainedas a result of Bayer’s improper conduct. (3)

In additionto the class action lawsuits, several individual lawsuits have also been filedand there are also anecdotal reports that European traders contemplating legalaction. As a result of the contamination of the rice supply with Bayer´s GErice farmers, millers, traders and retailers around the globe are facingmassive financial costs, including testing and recall costs, cancelled orders,import bans, brand damage and consumer distrust – distrust that could last foryears.

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

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

VVPR info: Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner, +31 6 4622 1185Adam Levitt, partner, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLC, +1 312-984-0000, U.S. lawyer representing rice farmers in U.S.-based class action litigation against BayerMhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications: (M) +44 (0)7801 212 960

Notes: (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. Leonard, C. 2006. 13 Lawsuits Over Accidental Spread of Genetically Altered Rice Could Be Combined Into 1. Associated Press. 30, November, 2006. (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)