Biotech Instills Fear and Loathing in Rice Belt

OCTOBER 16, 2006 - Posted at 7:44 CDT

PRINCETON, CA - Fourth-generation farmer Greg Massa isn't pleased with what's happened this year to affect what he gets for his rice crop.  The price of the gasoline that powers his water pumps and rice harvester has never been more expensive.  A late planting season, hot summer and rising expenses had ensured a less-than-stellar harvest, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasting a 13 percent drop compared to last year.

And then came a biotechnology blunder so disastrous that it prompted the rice industry's biggest export customer, Japan, to prohibit some varieties and threaten to ban all U.S. imports.  The European Union is making similar threats because genetically engineered rice continues to turn up on grocery shelves in Europe.

Massa says that, if that happens, the California industry will evaporate.  He has spent the past three years publicly protesting the growth of genetically engineered rice anywhere and in any quantity.  He says biotech-averse overseas consumers in Japan, Europe and elsewhere simply won't buy it , even if the crops are approved for U.S. consumption.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)