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Press Release, 4 July 2011
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)

Bayer compensates US farmers in GM rice complaint

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Bayer CropScience, a subgroup of the German chemical producer Bayer AG, has agreed to pay $750 million (517 million euros) to settle complaints submitted by US farmers. Around 11,000 farmers in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas filed lawsuits against the German company, claiming that their crops of long-grain rice had been tainted by genetically modified rice.

The complaints stem from the period between 2006 and 2010. In July 2006, Bayer´s Liberty Link Rice 601, a variety that was not approved for commercial distribution or human consumption anywhere in the world, appeared in the harvest of the farmers. US rice exports to the European Union, Japan, Russia declined markedly.

Philipp Mimkes of the Coalition against Bayer Dangers: “We welcome the settlement. We now call on the European Union to finally refuse authorisation for any imports of Liberty Link Rice. The EU must not ignore the ecological and social risks of GM rice in the countries which might potentially grow it. The incident in the US shows that risks linked with genetically modified crops cannot be controlled in the long term". The Coalition has introduced several countermotions on the issue at Bayer´s annual shareholder meetings in recent years.

"From the outset of this litigation, we made it clear to Bayer that the company needed to step up and take responsibility for damaging American rice farmers with its unapproved rice seeds," a lawyer for the farmers, Adam Levitt, said in a statement cited by Bloomberg News. "This excellent settlement goes a long way toward achieving that goal."

Liberty Link Rice has been modified with a gene that makes the plant tolerant to glufosinate, a weed-killer produced by Bayer under the brands Basta and Liberty. Glufosinate is to be phased out in Europe due to its hazardous nature. The herbicide is classified as toxic for reproduction and can also cause birth defects. With LL Rice usage levels for glufosinate would increase, also increasing the likelihood of herbicide residues on the rice itself.

Bayer already applied in 2003 to import LL62, a similar rice variety. The application was rejected several times when voted on in the EU council of ministers, but has so far not been withdrawn. Bayer is also pushing for legal approval in Brazil, South Africa, India and the Philippines.

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July 6, 2011, Chemical & Engineering News (USA)

Long Grain Rice Suits Settled

Bayer has settled with U.S. farmers over contamination by its modified rice crop

Bayer CropScience will pay up to $750 million to U.S. rice farmers to resolve claims that the company's experimental LibertyLink rice contaminated crops, making them unfit for export. The agreement ends several lawsuits representing more than 11,000 long grain rice farmers in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

The LibertyLink rice traits were originally developed by AgrEvo, which was bought by Aventis CropScience. Bayer acquired Aventis CropScience in 2001. The rice was genetically modified to be tolerant to glufosinate, the active ingredient in Liberty herbicide. Tests of the rice were conducted at Louisiana State University.

In 2006, Bayer CropScience alerted USDA that LibertyLink rice had contaminated the U.S. rice supply. At the time, there were no genetically modified rice varieties being grown commercially in the U.S. In response to the contamination, Japan and Russia banned imports of long grain rice from the U.S., while Mexico and the European Union required that U.S.-grown rice be tested and proven free of genetically-modified traits.

Bayer agreed to the settlement after losing several cases brought by rice farmers. "Although Bayer CropScience believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice," the firm said in a statement, "the company considers it important to resolve the litigation so that it can move forward focused on its fundamental mission of providing innovative solutions to modern agriculture.

Philipp Mimkes of the German activist group Coalition Against Bayer Dangers cautioned the European Union against approving Liberty Link imports. "The incident in the U.S. shows that risks linked with genetically modified crops cannot be controlled in the long term," he said.