Source: NY Times

Bayer AG unit will pay $750 million to settle claims with about 11,000 United States farmers who said a strain of the company’s genetically modified rice tainted crops and ruined their export value.

The settlement, announced on Friday, ends scores of lawsuits filed against the Bayer CropScience unit of the company by farmers in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Read the full article


ANH Comment

Following our recent story about US farmers obtaining a legal precedent to sue manufacturers of genetically modified (GM) crops over contamination of their non-GM produce, this story is more good news and further evidence that the GM worm may be turning. However, although the level of compensation may be historic, this remains a sad story for the farmers who were affected by contamination; compensation or no compensation.  Regardless of the fact that Bayer has confirmed the settlement of $750 million, the damage to the US rice export market and the reputation of US rice, and rice farmers, has already been done.

And looked at another way, what’s $750 million to a company with annual sales of EUR 6,830 million in 2010 – over $9,700 million at today’s prices? Especially when divided between around 11,000 plaintiffs, making around $68,000 compensation each? Translate this somewhat convoluted sentence: “The accord is contingent upon the participation of growers representing at least 85 percent of the United States long-grain rice acreage planted between 2006 and 2009”, and it means that the compensation will only kick in once a high percentage of the farmers who planted long-grain rice in 2006–9 take part.  We suspect that Bayer will not be crying too long or too hard over this one.

Attorney for the plaintiff, Scott Powell of Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton in Birmingham, AL, has said that Bayer’s conduct “amounted to a clear case of negligence and wrongful conduct.”  Although a spokesman for the company naturally responded that “…Bayer CropScience believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice…”, it seems that Bayer, like Monsanto, doesn’t really care who it takes down in its bid to maximise the market for GM foods.  This particular GM variety contaminated more than 30% of US ricelands, and has largely affected the livelihoods of approximately 2500 farmers in southern USA.

As soon as these GM strains were discovered in EU imports, movement of the rice to the EU ceased and the market crashed.  The rice farmers, who have been involved in the business for generations, may now find that many people no longer trust that their produce is free from contamination.  Powell commented that “Trace amounts of [GM] material continue to be found in Italy and Vietnam…”, implying that these farmers face a long uphill struggle to reverse the damage done by Bayer’s sloppily executed experiment.  Even though Bayer helpfully said that the trace amounts of rice pose no threat, we think we’ll avoid it anyway…


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