Bayer CropScience negligently allowed Liberty Link Rice 601 (LL601) and Liberty Link 604 (LL604) – two genetically modified varieties of long-grain rice – to infiltrate the U.S. long-grain rice crop. As a result of Bayer’s negligence, rice farmers, rice brokers, rice cooperatives, seed brokers, and other rice-related businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri have been damaged. Federal cases are being consolidated in the United State District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in East St. Louis.
Bayer field-tested LL601 and LL604 in the U.S. Bayer was aware that during field-testing that conventional rice (non-genetically altered) could be contaminated by LL601 and LL604. Bayer failed to take steps to prevent LL601 and LL604 from commingling or cross-pollinating with other non-genetically altered strains of long-grain rice. On August 18, 2006, Mike Johanns, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, announced that Riceland Foods, an Arkansas-based farmer-owned cooperative, had discovered that samples of the Cheniere rice variety had tested positive for LL601. During the spring of 2007, samples of the popular Clearfield 131 variety of long-grain rice tested positive for LL604.
Bayer has not tested LL601 or LL604 for human consumption. Before the genetically altered rice infiltrated the U.S. rice crop, Bayer had not sought approval to commercialize the rice. After it was announced that U.S. rice tested positive for LL601, Bayer hastily filed an application for approval by USDA. The USDA approved LL601 for human consumption in November 2006. LL601 has not been approved for human consumption by any other country in the world. And LL604 has not been approved for human consumption by the U.S. or any other country in the world.
Bayer’s wrongful conduct in allowing LL601 and LL604 to commingle with natural long-grain rice resulted in hundreds of thousands of bushels of rice being contaminated as well as thousands of acres of U.S. farmland. Farmers are not able to sell the contaminated rice on the world market. Farmers whose rice has tested positive are being required to dispose of contaminated rice and take extraordinary steps to eradicate from their farms any potentially contaminated seed. Farmers whose crops have not tested positive are being required to have their crops tested to certify that their crops are free of LL601 and LL604. In addition, the U.S. rice futures market has suffered significant losses, losing at one point over 5% of its value in one day. Andy Birchfield, Frank Woodson, and Leigh O’Dell of our firm currently represent numerous rice farmers who have been injured in the lawsuits filed around the country.
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