What is in this article?:
- Riceland wins historic award in GM rice case against Bayer.
- Case stems from 2006 discovery of trace amounts of GM traits in several U.S. rice varieties.
- Damages awarded may be subject to cap -- Arkansas Supreme Court to decide.
On the Riceland timeline…
“Riceland immediately started investigating once it got a complaint from a French customer (in January, 2006). Riceland itself didn’t have the ability to test for GM material. So, it hired an independent lab, GeneScan in Metairie, La., to start testing samples.
“GeneScan was (saying) that they didn’t think the GM material was in the rice. The initial thought was it was contamination from some other crop – ‘external’ contamination versus ‘internal’ contamination within the rice. GeneScan was saying ‘hey, we don’t think it’s in the rice. We’re getting some positive (hits) and are getting as many negatives. We’re not sure if we’re getting false-positives or false-negatives. But we don’t think it’s in the rice.’
“But Riceland kept testing because they wanted to figure it out. And there was an additional complaint from the same French customer saying ‘we need to know what the answer is.’
“Finally, in May 2006, (Riceland) took samples from their whole dryer/elevator area. They took (43) samples from about 25 locations. Interestingly, 17 of the samples were positive (for GM material) and 26 were negative. So, they were still getting mixed results but there were enough positives that … they decided to go to Bayer on June 9, 2006.
“Even at the point, GeneScan was saying ‘we don’t think it’s in the rice.’ In fact, GeneScan began to believe it was from some type of GM cotton. They wanted Riceland to look in drying and ginning facilities to see if rice was coming in contact with cotton somewhere. Riceland did that and couldn’t find” any such contact. “Eventually, (the cotton theory) was ruled out in June through testing.”
When approaching Bayer in June, 2006, Riceland “said ‘hey, we’re getting positives and negatives. We’re not sure if we’re getting false-positives, or not. Can you help us figure out what this is?’ Then, they sent Bayer various samples.”
Following testing “Bayer called Riceland back on July 31 and said it was (GM trait) ‘LL 601.’”
On Riceland’s response and due diligence…
“Our position all along has been (that Riceland) was doing due diligence and was trying to figure out what (the problem was). They didn’t want to come out and cry ‘wolf.’ They knew if they gave a false report – that the problem wasn’t in the rice – it could have just as bad of an impact on the markets as a true report. They wanted to make sure what they had before saying anything…
“As for farmers saying ‘if I’d known by March,’ -- no one knew. Once they figured out there was GM in the rice, they then had to figure out what seed it was in. That wasn’t an easy process.
“Riceland helped Bayer and the USDA determine it was in Cheniere. That’s because even after Riceland went to Bayer, they continued to test … seed they’d gotten from seed dealers. In July 2006, they determined the only seed variety that tested positive was Cheniere. No one would have determined what seed varieties (GM material was in) during the 2006 planting season.
“And the USDA didn’t confirm it was in Cheniere until LSU announced that around September 1. Once the USDA announcement came out about the contamination, all the universities began testing their seed. LSU announced out of all the seed varieties and samples from their foundation seed, the 2003 Cheniere foundation seed was positive for 601. That’s when it was really confirmed in Cheniere. It was much later that LL604 was found in Clearfield 131.”