Update: Rice Trials in Lonoke County, Arkansas

Hare Wynn’s legal team continues presentation of evidence and testimony in Lonoke County Circuit Court in Arkansas in a case against Bayer Cropscience. Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP 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.

Testimony via video deposition is expected as well as live testimony from several of the rice farmer-plaintiffs in the case.

The suit claims Bayer Cropscience was aware of the contamination as early as January 2006, prior to the season’s rice crop being planted. Scott Powell, plaintiff’s counsel and a partner with Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton says the Arkansas rice farmers didn’t find out about the problem until the USDA announcement in August 2006. By that time the rice crop was nearing maturation and nearly ready for harvest.

On Friday, March 26, Keith Glover, president of Producers Rice Mill, took the stand for more than four hours in his recount of the loss of the European Union (EU) rice market which is comprised of 27 rice-purchasing countries. The EU does not accept genetically modified rice and the financial impact was significant according to Glover.

“It was devastating,” Glover said. “We are willing to sell, but they do not want to buy. It was like a blow to the gut — it knocked the potential out of the market. The table was set for the farmers to have a phenomenal year.”

In addition to seeking compensation for damages, the rice farmers are seeking punitive damages, arguing that Bayer Cropscience was negligent in their handling of Liberty Link Rice and claiming the company’s failure to make an announcement as soon as they learned of the contamination was an act of malicious intent.

“Bayer CropScience knew that if an experimental strain of its genetically modified rice got into the commercial market it would be disastrous,” stated Scott Powell in his opening statement to the jury argument on Wednesday, March 24, 2010. “Bayer knew that, if this stuff got out, it would be catastrophic. “Was that being careful?” Powell asked the jury.

The rice litigation case is expected to last until mid-April.

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