A group of Arkansas rice farmers have sued RiceTec Inc., a company that produces hybrid seed, claiming that the company supplied them with seed that produced an inferior crop and sometimes didn’t grow well enough to be harvested. The claims – in the form of countersuits – were filed July 16th in response to RiceTec suing a Greene County farmer who didn’t pay his bill after he claimed the Texas-based company didn’t reimburse him for his costs after selling him inferior seed. That farmer countersued, and 32 other farmers have now joined the lawsuit. The farmers claim there are two major problems with the seed:
• Some seed is so defective that farmers were forced to replant entire sections of their fields, and
• RiceTec’s hybrids as a whole produce an inferior product.
The lawsuit is pending in Greene County Circuit Court. The farmers allege that they are seeing lower prices for their rice because RiceTec’s hybrid rice grows with less bran around the kernel, and it doesn’t mill as well as non-hybrid long-grain rice, which has more bran. The farmers claim that the RiceTec varieties chip and don’t cook as well, leading to less demand and lower prices. RiceTec claims on its packaging that its seed will bring a higher yield than conventional long-grain rice seed.
Many farmers sought hybrid seed after non-hybrid rice was contaminated with a genetically-modified strain starting in 2006. The contamination of traditional long-grain rice had a severe economic impact on Arkansas rice growers, who produce about half the nation’s rice. Growers saw prices plunge after European nations would no longer buy U.S.-grown rice because of the genetic modification, which had not been approved for human consumption.
The contamination was linked to Bayer CropScience, which produces conventional long-grain rice seed. The company reached a $750 million settlement with rice farmers last year. The RiceTec hybrid is popular because it resists panicle blight, a disease that takes hold when nighttime temperatures are high and can hurt conventional long-grain yields. On its website, RiceTec bills itself as “a technology-based rice company focused on high-value products, RiceTec is the first company to commercialize hybrid rice seed in North and South America.”
Clayton J. Smaistrla, a lawyer with the Texas firm of Goldman, Pennebaker & Phipps, represents the farmers in this lawsuit. It should be noted that the farmers aren’t seeking class action status because the claims vary from farmer to farmer.
Source: Insurance Journal
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