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.

He said he knows of several rice farmers who said that they were driven out of farming because of the problems with the rice.

Jones said he had to cash in a $50,000 life insurance policy in 2007 or 2008 to pay bills because of the drop in revenue from his rice crop.

"We pay huge fixed expenses, expecting a better price for our product," said Jones, who also is suing Bayer. "And when the world didn't want to buy our rice, it damaged us. And it's not something you get over within one or two years. I think every farmer is still trying to recover from '06."

Everything Documented
After the announcement about the genetically altered rice, farmers cleaned practically everything that touches rice to ensure that the tainted rice was out of the supply chain, Yielding said.

Petter, the Rice Council president, is also a farmer. He lives near Stuttgart and said that even though he didn't raise the two types of rice that were contaminated, he participated in the recovery.

"We have started out with a new foundation seed," Petter said.

He said everything involving the production of rice now is documented - from how much seed is bought to how many pounds per acre are planted.

"Whoever the first buyer is has to have that documentation before they will accept and purchase your rice farm," said Petter, who also is suing Bayer.

He said the farmers were willing to take the steps to ensure a market for their rice.
"We have done everything we can do to rectify the problem, regardless of who's at fault or whatever becomes of whatever lawsuit."




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