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Bayer CropScience: verdict in Arkansas biotech rice trial incomprehensible

Wed, 04/21/2010 - 1:23pm
Bayer
Monheim, April 19, 2010 – Bayer CropScience considers the verdict of April 15 in the genetically modified rice trial in Lonoke County, Arkansas, incomprehensible. The company announced that it will use all legal means available to reverse the decision. A jury in an Arkansas court had awarded compensatory damages in the amount of just under $6 million to fourteen rice farmers. “The facts in this case do not support this award of damages, and certainly not future damages,” said Bruce Mackintosh, General Counsel for Bayer CropScience LP.

In addition to the compensatory damages, the jury awarded punitive damages in the amount of $42 million. According to U.S. law, punitive damages may be awarded to plaintiffs in addition to compensatory damages if the defendant has acted in reckless disregard of the consequences. “This decision is especially incomprehensible to us, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has completed a thorough and diligent investigation without concluding that Bayer CropScience violated any legal requirement with respect to low-level presence of genetically engineered rice in commercial rice. To insinuate a malicious act by Bayer in this case is completely unjustified,” said Mackintosh. Bayer CropScience has acted responsibly and appropriately at all times in the handling of its genetically enhanced rice.

“Furthermore, the amount awarded to the plaintiffs by the jury exceeds by far what is permitted by Arkansas law,” said Mackintosh. For that reason alone the verdict should be reversed, he added.

Genetically modified rice safe for human consumption

In the litigation the rice farmers have alleged economic loss stemming from traces of Bayer CropScience pre-commercial genetically enhanced rice. The traces were detected in 2006 from the long grain harvest of 2005. Following the detection some countries, primarily in Europe, imposed restrictions on U.S. long-grain rice imports. Most long-grain rice grown in the United States is consumed outside of Europe and thus the marketing of that portion of the crop remained unaffected by the European regulatory system.

The traces of biotech rice posed no food safety issues. The protein involved, which makes the rice tolerant to a herbicide, has been affirmed safe for various crops by regulators in a number of countries, including Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture have determined Bayer CropScience biotech rice to be safe for human consumption; however, Bayer CropScience has not yet commercialized biotech rice.

Regarding the rice litigation, Mackintosh added: “Bayer CropScience is willing to work with those parties who approach discussions of economic loss in the genetically enhanced rice matter with an appropriate and reasonable frame of reference. Our recent settlement with Riviana Foods and four related companies for $5.8 million attests to our willingness to consider such opportunities to bring an end to litigation.”

About Bayer CropScience

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. Bayer CropScience AG, a subsidiary of Bayer AG with annual sales of about EUR 6.5 billion (2009), is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and traits. The company offers an outstanding range of products and extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture and for non-agricultural applications. Bayer CropScience has a global workforce of 18,700 and is represented in more than 120 countries. This and further news is available at: www.press.bayercropscience.com.

Find more information at www.press.bayercropscience.com.

Forward-looking statements

This release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Bayer Group or subgroup management. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Bayer’s public reports which are available on the Bayer website at www.bayer.com. The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.

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