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Bayer Hit By US$1.5 Million Penalty for Failure to Control GM Rice

Immediate release (9 Feb 2010)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065 or 0845 217 8992

The order from a US Federal court for Bayer CropScience to give US$1.5 million compensation to two rice farmers whose seed was contaminated by the company’s GM trait was welcomed by GM Freeze as “significant development highlighting the need to make ag-biotech companies liable for contamination caused by their products”.

The case of the two farmers, from Arkansas and Mississippi [1], is one of many brought by farmers who suffered major disruption to their sales of long grain rice when Bayer’s experimental LL601 GM trait was found in US non-GM rice in 2006. [2] The illegal GM trait was found in rice stocks around the world, including in the UK, where there was one of the biggest product recalls ever undertaken by supermarkets and food companies. Late last year two other farmers were awarded US$2 million. Around 6,000 rice farmers have filed cases against Bayer since 2006.

The exact cause of the contamination, which arose long after the US experimental LL601 trials were terminated, was never discovered despite a long investigation by the US authorities. [3] No legal action was taken against Bayer CropScience despite the huge economic impact of the incident, which continues to affect US exports.

In 2009 an unauthorised and illegal GM traits unknown as Triffid [4] was discovered in the EU during routine monitoring of flax seed imports from Canada. Eventually the GM contaminated flax was found in over 30 countries, including the UK, causing massive disruption to Canadian flax exports. This case has parallels with the earlier GM rice incident in that neither crop was legal for cultivation at the time of the contamination, both had last been grown several years before the contamination incidents were first discovered and the precise causes remain a mystery. These two cases show clearly the difficulties in containing GM technology.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

The award to the farmers handed down by the US court is significant development highlighting the need to make ag-biotech companies liable for contamination caused by their products in the absence of action by the US authorities.

In Europe we need legislation that makes it clear to the GM industry that if their products contaminate the crops and products of others they will be held strictly liable for all adverse impacts to health, the environment or the food chain. This may help prevent these cases arising in the first place.

So far the industry has paid scant regard to the interests of farmers, food companies, retailers or consumers in how they contain their GM crops. Governments need to look long and hard at the incidents which have occurred and decide if it is possible to grow GM crops without contamination taking place before giving permission to grow them.

[1] See Associated Press for full story

[2] For more Background on this LL601 case see here.

[3] See USDA report at

[4] See the GM Freeze Q and A on the Triffid incident here.