Bayer CropScience: verdict in Arkansas biotech rice trial incomprehensible
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.
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