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[genet-news] BUSINESS & SEEDS: Taking a slice of the GM rice pie



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   TAKING A SLICE OF THE GM RICE PIE

SOURCE:  GRAIN, Spain

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.grain.org/hybridrice/?lid=232

DATE:    04.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Early this year, Bayer announced that it is pulling out its application for commercial approval of its genetically modified Liberty Link rice (LL62) in Brazil. Its action sent a signal that - with the numerous law suits it had to settle or pay in damages in the US for contaminating rice farms with its LL601 rice variety - GM rice, the herbicide resistant one in any case, might just be too controversial to be commercialised."

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TAKING A SLICE OF THE GM RICE PIE

Early this year, Bayer announced that it is pulling out its application for commercial approval of its genetically modified Liberty Link rice (LL62) in Brazil. Its action sent a signal that - with the numerous law suits it had to settle or pay in damages in the US for contaminating rice farms with its LL601 rice variety - GM rice, the herbicide resistant one in any case, might just be too controversial to be commercialised. At least for now. Bayer's LL62 has been genetically-engineered to resist high doses of glufosinate - particularly Bayer's Liberty/Basta - sprayed on rice fields to kill a wide range of weeds. The idea is that LL62 rice will survive but the weeds will not, so the use of this rice will increase use of the said herbicide thereby increasing sales of Bayer?s glufosinate.

Brazil is no small market for Bayer's LL62, and neither is Asia, its other target. It's pull-out in Brazil, and the seeming willingness to settle lawsuits in the US, can be seen as a PR move by Bayer to paint a responsible image before the public. Just this month, it settled with three Texas farmers for US$ 290,000. In fact it vowed to put ?hundreds of millions of euros aside to settle US legal action focused mainly on genetically modified rice.?

Pure goodwill? The fact is that Bayer already lost the first six trials in US federal court, which cost the company US$ 54 million. With about 6,000 other claims that the company has to face, settling out of court might just be a less expensive route. And it's probably good PR too. That's why the company?s reasoning when it pulled out of Brazil - that its decision comes from the necessity to broaden dialogue with key members of rice production in Brazil - seems to have come straight out of a public relations firm. But it doesn't sound like Bayer is really pulling out, rather that it's simply taking its sweet time for now, to rebound later. In fact, while it pulled out of Brazil, it has kept challenging the injunction on its application for commercial approval of the same LL62 rice in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, seemingly oblivious of this or the Bt rice contamination scandal in China, the Philippines and Bangladesh are gearing up to commercialise golden rice in farmers? fields. The Philippines plans to start field testing Vit A rice in December this year, racing to be the first Asian country to commercialise GM rice in the world. The government agency, Philrice, has been developing with IRRI its own variant of ?golden rice? engineered to produce beta-carotene, and wanted it field tested soon. Philrice expects that the Bureau of Plant Industry, which oversees field trials, will give the green light for the series of location tests. The agency aims to commercialise the said rice by 2012.

Over in Bangladesh, the Director General of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Mohammad Abdul Mannan, early last month has also expressed the intention to introduce genetically engineered rice in the country. Bangladesh, whose population has high incidence of Vit A deficiency, is among the countries targeted for golden rice. Yet some civil society groups doubt whether BRRI has done any study on the safety of GM rice, or whether they have the capacity to carry out research on health and environmental safety aspects of GM crops.

A more recent development that would put all this in perspective is the approval of India's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to allow a confined field trial of DuPont's transgenic rice hybrids in Hyderabad. The trial is meant to asses 12 transformation events that would potentially allow DuPont to create its own hybrid parental lines in a shorter period of time, and possibly without having to depend on the Chinese breeding lines in the future. In fact the opportunity that the field test presents is that DuPont might eventually surpass the Chinese hybrids by incorporating high yield with traits like insect resistance and herbicide resistance. At least this is where DuPont India President and CEO, Balvinder Singh Kalsi, sees this going.

?There is a huge opportunity. You have almost 43 million acres under rice cultivation [in India] and very little of it is hybrid  -  less than 2 per cent. In China, almost 50 per cent is hybrid. At some stage, in the next five to ten years, if India were to get to 50 per cent level of hybridisation, you are talking about a seed market of $500-600 million. This does not include any tricks. If we were to come out with insect- or weed-resistant rice, then those values are separate.?

DuPont's move is a very smart one. The Union Government of India has recently unveiled its big plan to launch a second Green Revolution in the eastern states, with heavy emphasis on Chinese-style, massive scale, hybrid rice production. ?Our first level of focus is to work on the yields. So, we are working on high-yielding hybrids and on reducing our development cycle. If you go through a traditional breeding process, it will take you four or five years to come out with a hybrid. But with some of the new technologies that we have brought in, we can cut that cycle to about half. And then simultaneously we are working on traits. One of the traits we would be working on is insect control,? according to Singh Kalsi. ?This is one of the mega trends DuPont is working on.?

We've always believed that this is where corporate rice breeding is heading: a combination of hybrid and GM rice - put into motion by private seed companies that will ensure them profits, without having to depend on terminator technologies or IPR regimes. If the seed industry gets its way, transgenic hybrid rice could be the norm 3-4 years from now. To ensure its place within this future scenario, IRRI set-up the hybrid rice consortium in 2007 as a platform for germplasm exchange among itself and an elite club of private seed companies like DuPont, Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta.

Government agencies like Philrice in the Philippines and BRRI in Bangladesh, who have token membership in the consortium, are therefore racing to get their varieties tested and commercialised. Obviously they do not want to get bypassed by these developments, they want to be important players as well so they can keep their legitimacy in the fast becoming corporate domain that is rice research. Thus under the pretext of solving Vit A deficiency, these government agencies pretend to be itching to get golden rice on the ground. In reality, it has nothing to do with that objective but just a move to secure their place in the GM race for this important staple crop. It?s a big pie they too want a good slice of.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   GENE-ALTERED RICE ?A DISSERVICE TO HUMANITY?

SOURCE:  VietNamNet, Viet Nam

AUTHOR:  Thanh Nien Weekly, Viet Nam

URL:     http://english.vietnamnet.vn/en/environment/1532/gene-altered-rice--a-disservice-to-humanity-.html

DATE:    16.11.2010

SUMMARY: "The environmental advocacy group Greenpeace has called for the adoption of ?readily available? food security solutions instead of hugely problematic ones like genetically engineered rice. [...] ?Ecological farming methods - based on good husbandry of natural resources, including maintaining biodiversity at all levels from genetic to landscape, are vital for rice production in a world impacted by climate change. However, they are often overlooked, even though they are readily available,? the organization said."

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GENE-ALTERED RICE ?A DISSERVICE TO HUMANITY?

The environmental advocacy group Greenpeace has called for the adoption of ?readily available? food security solutions instead of hugely problematic ones like genetically engineered rice.

?Genetically engineered (GE) rice is sometimes proposed as a solution to the impacts of climate change although there is no evidence that GE crops can play a role in increasing food security under a changing climate,? Greenpeace said in a message sent to the third International Rice Congress in Hanoi held from November 8 to 12.

?In addition, there are health and environmental concerns associated with GE rice. Contamination of conventional rice supplies is a major problem, even from field trials,? it said.

Instead, the group suggested that ways of farming that preserve biodiversity and protect the environment be used to help farmers feed the world?s growing population.

?Ecological farming methods - based on good husbandry of natural resources, including maintaining biodiversity at all levels from genetic to landscape, are vital for rice production in a world impacted by climate change. However, they are often overlooked, even though they are readily available,? the organization said.

Dr. Janet Cotter, senior scientist at Greenpeace Research Laboratories, said: ?We are trying to call on the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to stop field trial of ?golden? rice and other GE rice. The Melinda Gates Foundation and other ?golden? rice investors are here and we want to take this opportunity to call them to stop investment in GE rice due to its harmful impacts,? she told Thanh Nien Weekly on the phone.

On Tuesday (November 9), Greenpeace presented a report at the International Rice Congress warning against the harmful impacts of GE rice.

?Releasing GE rice in Asia could irreversibly affect traditional rice varieties and wild ancestors of rice, decreasing our ability to use these valuable genetic resources in the future. It will also impact rice culture,? Cotter said.

According to the Greenpeace report, the much-vaunted ?golden? rice has been in development for almost 20 years and has still not made any impact on the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency, as is claimed.

?Not only has it failed to have any impact on vitamin A deficiency while using money and resources that could have been given to real solutions, it is also environmentally irresponsible. GE crops have, and will continue to contaminate neighboring crops wherever they are released,? the report said.

?After 20 years and millions of dollars, ?golden? rice remains an illusion. Meanwhile, the world has been tackling vitamin A deficiency using safer and more effective techniques. These techniques are proven to be successful and are readily available,? said Dr. Chito Medina of the Philippines-based biodiversity advocate MASIPAG.

??Golden? rice is a myth, and worse, it carries with it all the environmental and health risks associated with GE crops. Spending more time and money on ?golden? rice development is not only environmentally irresponsible but also a disservice to humanity,? Medina added.

Immediate action to boost rice supply

The quadrennial International Rice Congress, history?s largest international gathering of rice experts, has brought together international leaders in rice science, policymakers, rice traders, and others across the industry?s private and public sectors to seek solutions to mounting pressure on global food production, exaggerated by poverty and climate change.

During the congress, experts called for urgent action to reverse inefficient farming methods and boost the world?s supply of rice.

?We must take action now, not next week, not next month, not next year, but today,? AFP cited Kanayo Nwanze, president of the United Nations? International Fund for Agriculture Development, as saying on Tuesday (November 9).

More than half of the world?s population, or more than three billion people, depend on rice as their main food source, including around 640 million Asians living in extreme poverty.

?Projected demands for rice will outstrip supply in the near to medium term unless something is done to reverse current trends,? Robert Zeigler of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) told the forum.

He said these trends include ?slow productivity growth and inefficient, often unsustainable management of natural resources.?

Vietnam is the world?s second-biggest exporter of rice, behind Thailand, but Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the country?s food production still faced many challenges, including rapid population growth and frequent natural disasters.

?Ensuring food security is not merely an economic or humanitarian activity,? he said. ?It actively contributes to national as well as global socio-political stability.?



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   MDL COURT REFUSES TO UPSET VERDICT IN GM RICE SUIT

SOURCE:  Lexology, USA

AUTHOR:  Mark Anstoetter & Madeleine McDonough

URL:     http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=f1509bbc-1790-4020-b8b5-909417c02ec5

DATE:    12.11.2010

SUMMARY: "According to the court, ?Plaintiff demonstrated that Bayer unreasonably failed to contain the LL Rice and that the resulting contamination was the foreseeable cause of the loss of the European rice market and depressed rice prices.? The court also determined that the plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence to prove the company?s negligence and vicarious liability for the actions of those who field tested the GM rice."

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MDL COURT REFUSES TO UPSET VERDICT IN GM RICE SUIT

A multidistrict litigation (MDL) court in Missouri has denied the defendants? post-trial motions in the fourth bellwether trial involving claims that conventional rice farmers were adversely affected when contamination by genetically modified (GM) rice closed international markets to U.S. rice exports. In re Genetically Modified Rice Litig., MDL No. 1811 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Mo., E. Div., decided November 9, 2010). The court rejected arguments that the Plant Protection Act preempts the claims, the plaintiff could not recover market loss damages and future damages because they are too uncertain and speculative, the evidence supporting plaintiff?s alternative crop yield and crop variety damages was insufficient, and the plaintiff could not demonstrate legal cause and could not recover ?landlord? damages. According to the court, ?Plaintiff demonstrated that Bayer unreasonably failed to contain the LL Rice and that the resulting contamination was the foreseeable cause of the los
 s of the European rice market and depressed rice prices.? The court also determined that the plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence to prove the company?s negligence and vicarious liability for the actions of those who field tested the GM rice. Holding that the defendant was not unfairly prejudiced by the introduction of evidence relating to the company?s experience with Star Link corn contamination, the court noted, ?The fact that Bayer lost track of a large amount of seed in 2001 was relevant to show Bayer?s carelessness in handling LL Rice in 2001, which was approximately the same time that the evidence indicated that LL Rice escaped.?




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