On December 4, a federal court ruled Bayer CropScience legally responsible for contaminating the rice in five states with genetically modified strains not approved for human consumption by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Two farmers were awarded $2 million in compensatory damages in the trial.
These farmers, among another 3,000 rice producers, experienced a significant drop in exports in the summer of 2006 as Japan, Canada, Russia, Taiwan, Iraq and the Philippines enacted harsh restrictions on U.S. rice after the USDA announced the GM infiltration in Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri did not award punitive damages.
“They are finally being held responsible for the problems that they’ve caused,” Ken Roseboro, publisher of the Non-GMO report says. “They should suffer when organic farmers suffer from contamination.”
Judge Catherine D. Perry will see other rice producers and distributor Riviana foods in January as they seek damages.
“If the [rate] of $2 million for the first two cases continues, it’ll definitely give these companies pause to be more careful with genetically modified genes,” Roseboro says.
Roseboro along with other non-GMO campaigners like Megan Thompson Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO project, and Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception are bolstered by the news and hope the ruling sends a message to other biotech companies.
“The biotech industry has acted with arrogance and has overlooked basic precautions,” Smith says. “This ruling can help to refocus them on some of the consequences. My hope is that the companies are much more careful in the leakiness of the technology. This [case] highlights one of the most profound dangers of GM crops –there is no recall.”