A jury in Arkansas has returned a verdict against the Bayer Crop-Science and awarded farmers nearly $50 million in damages for allowing a genetically altered strain of rice to escape into the commercial market. By the rice escaping, the rice prices were damaged in 2006. Bayer was lost the case last month before a jury of Lonoke County, Arkansas.
The farmers said an experimental rice strain developed by Bayer called "Liberty Link" was allowed to make its way into the stream of commercially marketed rice. Liberty Link was developed to withstand a popular herbicide that kills weeds in the farmer’s fields.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in August , that trace amounts of Liberty Link rice was found in U.S. long-grain rice stocks. This case was the fourth to go to trial among dozens filed already by rice-belt farmers against Bayer. The Bayer CropScience is a subsidiary of the German chemical giant that makes aspirin.
Bayer had faced judgments of $4.5 million in the three cases it had lost before they lost this one. Liberty Link rice was developed so farmers could apply Liberty herbicide without fear that it would damage their crops.
Rice futures plummeted by $150 million immediately after the contamination announcement. No nation has approved genetically modified rice for the marketplace. European nations quit accepting shipments of rice from the United States that hadn’t been extensively tested to show that they were not contaminated. There was a handful of states that argued that Bayer was not only negligent in its handling of Liberty Link rice, but acted with malicious intent by not announcing the contamination of the rice-seed pool as soon as the company had learned about it.
Bayer knew of the contamination as early as January 2006, before that year’s crops were sowed. The farmers didn’t learn of the contamination until it was almost time for them to harvest their crops. Scott Powell of the Birmingham firm of Hare, tired this case and did an excellent job.