Plant Board Decides Rice Ban Isn't Absolute

FEBRUARY 22, 2007 - Posted at 11:22 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Arkansas farmers will be allowed to plant rice seed certified by an authorized lab as free of genetic modification that prompted some countries to ban American rice imports last year, even if some trace of the genetic alteration was found in some samples of the seed.

That ruling came yesterday by the state Plant Board.

The board adopted the policy on a 5-to-1 vote after discussing for three hours if there was an acceptable tolerance level for rice tainted by the genetic modification.

Ray Vester, a Stuttgart rice farmer, cast the lone vote against the policy.  He argued that any detection of the undesirable trait should disqualify for sale the related lot of seed rice.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that traces of unapproved, genetically engineered rice had been discovered in U.S. commercial long-grain rice supplies.  Numerous lawsuits have followed and the European Union halted imports of U.S. rice.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)