Farmers, Bayer Reach $750 Million Settlement In Rice Case

U.S. rice farmers, including a number in Arkansas, and Bayer AG have reached a $750 million settlement agreement over contamination of the U.S. rice supply by Bayer's genetically modified rice.

Bayer has agreed to pay up to $750 million in damages to U.S. rice farmers in addition to all administrative costs, a news release issued by the St. Louis law firm Gray Ritter & Graham. Don Downing, with Gray Ritter, was the lead negotiator for the plaintiff farmers in the case. 

This $750 million settlement is in addition to previous settlements in which Bayer has agreed to pay to some plaintiffs in the various lawsuits over the Liberty Link rice. The plaintiffs include farmers, rice exporters, rice importers, rice mills and rice seed dealers.

In March, a Stuttgart jury awarded Riceland Foods Inc. $136.8 million in its lawsuit against Bayer CropScience over the GM rice.

Riceland had alleged that negligence on the part of Bayer CropScience of Research Triangle Park, N.C., had cost Riceland, a farmers cooperative, $380 million in both projected and future losses since August 2006. That was when the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Bayer's experimental Liberty Link rice had been found in the U.S. supply of long-grain rice.

The European Union, which had been a major customer for Arkansas rice, refused to import any rice showing traces of genetically modified organisms, or GMO. With the USDA announcement that trace amounts of GMO rice had been detected, Arkansas farmers lost the multination market of the EU, and, they said, millions of dollars in sales.

Arkansas grows more rice than any other state.

Although the EU later lifted its testing requirements for U.S. rice, other suppliers have moved into the European market and supplanted American farmers, according to advocates of U.S. rice farmers.

Since then, a number of lawsuits had been filed against Bayer. In April 2010, a Lonoke County Circuit Court found Bayer responsible for $5.9 million in compensatory and $42 million in punitive damages to 12 Lonoke County rice growers. Bayer appealed the decision.