March 24, 2010 – Scott Powell presented opening arguments today in Lonoke County Circuit Court in Arkansas in a case against Bayer Cropscience. Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton is representing 12 plaintiffs in their fight concerning the contamination of the commercial supply U. S. Long Grain rice by Bayer’s genetically engineered rice.
“Bayer CropScience knew that if an experimental strain of its genetically modified rice got into the commercial market it would be disastrous,” stated Powell. “Bayer knew that, if this stuff got out, it would be catastrophic.”
The German-based company developed the rice the rice known as Liberty Link in an effort to create a strain of the crop that would not be harmed by Liberty herbicide, a product made Bayer. During the testing in the United States, the GMO rice contaminated regular rice which significantly impacted foreign rice markets and pricing for rice.
When the contamination was announced in August 2006, rice prices plunged and the reduction in U.S. rice exports had significant and far-reaching impact on the rice farmers in Arkansas and surrounding states.
Bayer was required to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards “to keep this material confined and contained,” Powell said. “Bayer should have used common sense. Rice in its raw form is sticky stuff — it sticks to your boots, pants, cuffs and combines. They didn’t use dedicated equipment — they used the same equipment in the experimental fields.”
“Was that being careful?” Powell asked the jury.
Following opening arguments, jurors heard live testimony from Robert Cummings, Jr. Senior Vice-President of the USA Rice Federation regarding the economic impact of this contamination on the international rice market.
Also testifying via video deposition was Donna Mitten, Bayer Global Regulatory Affairs Manager.
The rice litigation case continues on Thursday and is expected to last until mid-April.