Tainted Rice Leaves a Painful Legacy

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Aug. 31, 2009 12:00 am  

Ray Vester, who has been farming east of Stuttgart for more than 40 years, is one of the farmers whose fortunes were affected by the discovery of genetically altered rice in U.S. crops in 2006.

Even the countries that were buying U.S. rice used the announcement to demand lower prices, Yielding said.

Immediate Hits
"We took an immediate hit," Randy Woodard, co-owner of the seed dealer Cache River Valley Seed LLC of Cash, said last week.

The contamination was traced to two varieties of rice, Cheniere and Clearfield 131.

"Our Cheniere [seed] was locked down by the government for nine months," Woodard said.

He declined to say how much his company lost because it has sued Bayer.

Yielding, of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, said the seed was worth more than rice.

"So you put all this work and all this money into seed, ... and then all of a sudden you can't sell that seed," Yielding said. "There was millions and millions of dollars lost by the seed people on this."

Carter reported that Cheniere was a profitable and popular variety in the South. In 2006, Cheniere accounted for 10.6 percent of the long-grain rice acreage in Arkansas, he wrote.

Yielding said some seed rice farmers reported losing about $45,000 each because they couldn't sell their Cheniere seed.

"They just had to take the loss," he said. "No one was there to bail them out."

Stan Jones, a rice farmer in Hoxie, declined to give an estimate on how much he had lost because of the tainted rice.

But he said that he had Cheniere seed worth $36,000 that he couldn't use. Instead, he had to buy seed at a cost of $300,000 to make sure it wasn't contaminated.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.