Lawyers Seek Class-Action Status for Biotech Rice Suit - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

St. Louis, MO

Lawyers Seek Class-Action Status for Biotech Rice Suit

ST. LOUIS, MO - A federal judge at St. Louis will decide whether to make several lawsuits over genetically engineered rice into one class-action suit that would include thousands of rice farmers throughout the United States.

U.S. Judge Catherine Perry heard arguments yesterday about the case that hinges on economic damage suffered by farmers after a strain of Bayer CropScience AG's experimental rice was released into the food supply in 2006.  Arkansas is the largest grower of rice in the nation, and many Arkansas farmers were affected after some foreign countries temporarily banned U.S. rice exports and rice prices dropped dramatically.

The action by those countries followed the discovery of traces of the so-called Liberty Link strain of rice in the U.S. crop.

Perry made no ruling Thursday, but if she grants the suit class-action status, it could have potentially enormous implications for the biotech seed industry.  Every major biotech seed company grows experimental biotech crops outdoors.  The U.S. rice farmers say the company should be held liable for any economic losses on global grain markets if experimental strains escape and crimp export markets.

The Liberty Link strain of rice was not considered harmful to humans, but it wasn't approved for human consumption by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.  The department determined that the rice likely escaped from a corporate-funded test plot at Louisiana State University, where it was being grown alongside commercial varieties.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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