$2 million rice verdict against Bayer

A St. Louis district court has ordered Bayer CropScience to pay over $2 million in compensatory damages to two Misssouri-based rice farmers whose crops cross-bred with the company's genetically modified (GM) LibertyLink during field testing. When the unwanted presence of transgenic rice was discovered in 2006, several countries halted US rice imports, which led to farmers' economic loss and prompted more than 1,000 similar lawsuits against Bayer CropScience, whose US operations are based in The Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. This first trial, whose verdict was issued last December, has been called a bellwether case. “We are studying the court's award of monetary damages in detail and are considering our options,” says Richard Breum, corporate spokesperson for Bayer CropScience in Monheim, Germany. “Since each case is different, we evaluate each separately. Last year the court ruled against the plaintiffs in their efforts to obtain class action status in the litigation, noting overall differences in individual plaintiff's situations and claims.” In 2007 the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) decided against pursuing enforcement action against the company. It noted that investigators within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at USDA were “unable to make any definitive determinations” about the inadvertent release, during field trials, of two varieties of LibertyLink rice that then mixed with commercial rice crops in Missouri and several neighboring states.

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Fox, J. $2 million rice verdict against Bayer. Nat Biotechnol 28, 114 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0210-114b

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