GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

CONTAMINATION & REGULATION: Bayer agrees to pay $750 million to end U.S. lawsuits over GE contaminated rice



                                  PART 1


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

TITLE:   BAYER AGREES TO PAY $750 MILLION TO END LAWSUITS OVER GENE-MODIFIED RICE

SOURCE:  Bloomberg, USA

AUTHOR:  Andrew Harris & David Beasley

URL:     http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-01/bayer-to-pay-750-million-to-end-lawsuits-over-genetically-modified-rice.html

DATE:    02.07.2011

SUMMARY: "A Bayer AG unit agreed to a $750 million settlement resolving claims with about 11,000 U.S. farmers who said a strain of the company?s genetically modified rice tainted crops and ruined their export value. [...] The U.S. Agriculture Department said in August 2006 that trace amounts of the company?s experimental LibertyLink strain were found in U.S. long-grain rice. Within four days, declining rice futures cost U.S. growers about $150 million, according to a complaint filed by the farmers. News of the contamination caused futures prices to fall about 14 percent."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


BAYER AGREES TO PAY $750 MILLION TO END LAWSUITS OVER GENE-MODIFIED RICE

A Bayer AG unit agreed to a $750 million settlement resolving claims with about 11,000 U.S. farmers who said a strain of the company?s genetically modified rice tainted crops and ruined their export value.

The settlement, announced yesterday, ends scores of lawsuits filed against the Bayer CropScience unit of the Leverkusen, Germany-based company by farmers in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said in August 2006 that trace amounts of the company?s experimental LibertyLink strain were found in U.S. long-grain rice. Within four days, declining rice futures cost U.S. growers about $150 million, according to a complaint filed by the farmers. News of the contamination caused futures prices to fall about 14 percent.

?From the outset of this litigation, we made it clear to Bayer that the company needed to step up and take responsibility for damaging American rice farmers with its unapproved rice seeds,? Adam Levitt, a plaintiffs? lawyer, said yesterday in a statement. ?This excellent settlement goes a long way toward achieving that goal.?

Bayer confirmed the settlement in its own press statement minutes later.

?Although Bayer CropScience believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice, the company considers it important to resolve the litigation so that it can move forward focused on its fundamental mission of providing innovative solutions to modern agriculture,? Greg Coffey, a spokesman for the company, said in the statement.

Herbicide-Resistant

The accord is contingent upon the participation of growers representing at least 85 percent of the U.S. long-grain rice acreage planted between 2006 and 2009, the company and plaintiffs? lawyers said separately.

Bayer and Louisiana State University had tested the rice, bred to be resistant to Bayer?s Liberty-brand herbicide, at a school-run facility in Crowley, Louisiana.

The genetically modified variety cross-bred with and ?contaminated? more than 30 percent of U.S. ricelands, Don Downing, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said at the start of the first farmers? trial in November 2009.

Exports fell as the European Union, Japan, Russia and other overseas buying ceased or was slowed for testing of U.S.-grown long grain rice, the growers said.

?Our clients and other rice farmers were devastated by the loss of markets around the world,? said a third plaintiffs? lawyer, Scott Powell of Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton.

Trace Amounts

The company denied the testing program was negligently managed and claimed sale prices rebounded after the initial drop. It said the trace amounts of the LibertyLink rice posed no threat to people.

Juries in the first six cases to be tried awarded farmers about $54 million in total compensatory and punitive damages before the company settled a seventh case three days into an October 2010 trial at the U.S. courthouse in St. Louis.

It paid the Texas growers $290,000, Downing said then.

Under yesterday?s accord, farmers who sustained market losses will be compensated for each acre of rice they grew on an annual declining scale encompassing the years 2006 through 2010.

A grower who participated in all five seasons would receive $120 per acre for 2006, $80 per acre for 2007, $60 per acre for 2008, $40 for 2009 and $10 for 2010 for a maximum of $310 per acre.

Compensation Pools

Two other compensation pools have been created under the pact: one for farmers who planted two contaminated varieties and another for growers who didn?t plaint tainted strains yet suffered damages beyond market loss. Those latter claims, if disputed by Bayer, would be subject to binding arbitration.

?In the farming community, most people live by the principle that if you harm a neighbor, you make it right,? Downing said in his press statement yesterday. ?After almost five years of litigation,? Bayer has finally made an effort to make it right.?

The federal case is In re Genetically Modified Rice Litigation, 06-md-01811, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).



                                  PART 2

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

TITLE:   BAYER TO PAY $750M IN GENETIC RICE SETTLEMENT

SOURCE:  The Associated Press, USA

AUTHOR:  Jeannie Nuss

URL:     http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gCAPoX7EKjypRSR4hQ14x3BEC0Dw?docId=1db7ed971cba475d869ef71569f622fc

DATE:    02.07.2011

SUMMARY: "German conglomerate Bayer CropScience agreed Friday to pay up to $750 million to settle several lawsuits with U.S. farmers who claimed a strain of the company?s unapproved genetically modified rice contaminated the food supply and hurt their crop prices. The litigation goes back to 2006, when Bayer disclosed that an experimental strain of genetically altered rice was found in U.S. food supplies. No human health problems have been associated with the contamination, but that wasn?t known at the time."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


BAYER TO PAY $750M IN GENETIC RICE SETTLEMENT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) ? German conglomerate Bayer CropScience agreed Friday to pay up to $750 million to settle several lawsuits with U.S. farmers who claimed a strain of the company?s unapproved genetically modified rice contaminated the food supply and hurt their crop prices.

The litigation goes back to 2006, when Bayer disclosed that an experimental strain of genetically altered rice was found in U.S. food supplies. No human health problems have been associated with the contamination, but that wasn?t known at the time.

?Back in 2006, this rice had not been approved for human consumption,? said Don Downing, a St. Louis-based attorney who represents some of the farmers who sued.

The fear that the rice was unsafe, along with the notion that genetically altered rice was somehow impure, quashed sales in major markets including the European Union, which has tight restrictions on genetically modified crops.

So, farmers from Arkansas, which produces about half of the nation?s rice, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, sued Bayer, saying the accident closed off critical export markets and caused the price of rice to drop.

The settlement reached Friday will extend to all U.S. farmers who planted long-grain rice between 2006 and 2010.

Downing, who has represented farmers in the case since 2006, said the agreement was likely the largest settlement in the history of genetically altered crops.

?I don?t think there?s any settlement involving genetically modified seed that approaches the size of this,? he said.

Rice growers have between 90 and 150 days to submit their claims, depending on which types of compensation they?re seeking. But, farmers who represent 85 percent of the average acres planted from 2006 to 2009 don?t sign up, Bayer can walk away.

?Although Bayer CropScience believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice, the company considers it important to resolve the litigation so that it can move forward focused on its fundamental mission of providing innovative solutions to modern agriculture,? Bayer spokesman Greg Coffey said in a written statement.

If a farmer planted 500 acres of rice for every year from 2006 to 2010, he?d collect $155,000 at $310 per acre. Plus, farmers can collect more money if the contaminated rice forced them to plant another crop like wheat or soybeans that didn?t pay as well.

The settlement applies to long-grain rice, the kind used in pilaf or typically mixed with beans. It doesn?t affect farmers who planted medium-grain rice, which is often used in sushi, or short-grain rice, which is often used to make cereal.

Genetically modified or altered rice is, as Downing put it, ?not the way God made it.?

Some of the farmers who sued have no problem eating genetically modified rice, but whether its rice or any other crop, genetically modified food doesn?t sit well with some consumers, especially overseas.

?We may think it?s all right to eat genetically modified rice ... but the customer?s always right,? Downing said.

Agribusiness Writer Christopher Leonard contributed to this report from St. Louis.



                                  PART 3

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

TITLE:   BAYER SETTLES RICE LITIGATION FOR UP TO $750 MILLION

SOURCE:  Thomson Reuters, USA

AUTHOR:  Dan Levine

URL:     http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2011/07_-_July/Bayer_settles_rice_litigation_for_up_to_$750_million/

DATE:    01.07.2011

SUMMARY: "A Bayer AG unit will pay U.S. long-grain rice growers up to $750 million to resolve claims over contamination of the rice crop, the company and plaintiff lawyers announced. The chemical and drug maker has been defending itself against claims from farmers across the United States after genetically altered rice developed by a subsidiary for research showed up in the food supply chain in August 2006."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


BAYER SETTLES RICE LITIGATION FOR UP TO $750 MILLION

SAN FRANCISCO, July 1 (Reuters) - A Bayer AG unit will pay U.S. long-grain rice growers up to $750 million to resolve claims over contamination of the rice crop, the company and plaintiff lawyers announced.

The chemical and drug maker has been defending itself against claims from farmers across the United States after genetically altered rice developed by a subsidiary for research showed up in the food supply chain in August 2006.

The rice variety had not been approved for commercial cultivation and its presence in the U.S. crop led Japan and the European Union to restrict U.S. rice from crossing their borders, triggered a plunge in rice prices.

The long-grain rice in question had a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of a certain weed killer.

In a statement on Friday, Bayer said it believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice, but considered it important to resolve the litigation.

Adam Levitt, an attorney for the rice growers, called it an excellent settlement.

?From the outset of this litigation, we made it clear to Bayer that the company needed to step up and take responsibility for damaging American rice farmers with its unapproved rice seeds,? Levitt said in a statement.

More than 7,000 long-grain rice producers in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas claimed they suffered damage.

The farmers have won six jury trial verdicts against Bayer over its conduct, according to plaintiff lawyers.

Bayer said the settlement will apply to federal multi-district litigation, as well as state court cases.

The federal multi-district litigation in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri is In Re: Genetically Modified Rice Litigation, 06-md-1811.



                                  PART 4

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

TITLE:   BAYER TO PAY RICE FARMERS FOR GENE CONTAMINATION

SOURCE:  The Wall Street Journal, USA

AUTHOR:  Ian Berry

URL:     http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450604576420330493480082.html

DATE:    01.07.2011

SUMMARY: "ayer AG agreed on Friday to a $750 million settlement with U.S. rice farmers who had sued the company after two of the German chemicals firm?s genetically modified traits contaminated their crops. The settlement concludes a four-year-old case that followed the revelation that traces of two strains of genetically modified rice, which had not been approved by federal regulators, had entered the U.S. supply. The disclosure prompted several export customers to ban U.S. rice or impose strict testing requirements before allowing it into the country, which sent U.S. prices tumbling."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


BAYER TO PAY RICE FARMERS FOR GENE CONTAMINATION

CHICAGO?Bayer AG agreed on Friday to a $750 million settlement with U.S. rice farmers who had sued the company after two of the German chemicals firm?s genetically modified traits contaminated their crops.

The settlement concludes a four-year-old case that followed the revelation that traces of two strains of genetically modified rice, which had not been approved by federal regulators, had entered the U.S. supply. The disclosure prompted several export customers to ban U.S. rice or impose strict testing requirements before allowing it into the country, which sent U.S. prices tumbling.

The contamination occurred between 1998 and 2001, during experiments with the rice strain on U.S. test sites. At the time, the strains were owned by chemicals company Aventis and were designed to make the rice resistant to its own weed killer. Bayer bought parts of Aventis, including the rice strains, in October 2001, and made them part of its Bayer CropScience subsidiary.

Bayer is responsible for the contamination and for waiting at least a couple months after learning of it to notify the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which announced the problem in August 2006, farmers? attorneys alleged.

Those farmers continue to feel the impact, said Chicago-based Adam Levitt, lead attorneys for the plaintiffs. He said the industry is still ?struggling to regain its primacy? in the world market, and that the lawsuit aimed to make Bayer take responsibility for the damage to farmers.

?This excellent settlement goes a long way toward achieving that goal,? Mr. Levitt said.

About 11,000 farmers in five states, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, will split the settlement. Farmers who planted rice in each of the five years from 2006 to 2010 will be eligible to receive $310 per acre, plaintiff attorneys said. Those who planted a specific strain of rice that was contaminated in 2006 will be eligible for another $100 per acre.

The U.S. has been a leading adopter of genetically modified crops since they were introduced in the 1990s, but many of its export customers have been more reluctant to accept them.

Following the contamination, countries such as Japan and Russia banned U.S. exports while the European Union and Mexico, a key U.S. customer, imposed strict testing requirements.

The settlement follows several jury trials in related state and federal cases which awarded millions of dollars to farmers in the South. Bayer had lost all of the cases, including one brought by Riceland, a farmers? cooperative and the world?s largest rice miller, which an Arkansas jury awarded $125 million in punitive damages. That award could be reduced, however, as that state?s Supreme Court considers whether an existing $1 million cap on awards is constitutional.



                                  PART 5

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

TITLE:   GENETIC RICE LAWSUIT IN ST. LOUIS SETTLED FOR $750 MILLION

SOURCE:  St. Louis Post-Dispatch, USA

AUTHOR:  Robert Patrick

URL:     http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/article_38270243-c82f-5682-ba3b-8f8e24b85a92.html

DATE:    02.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Bayer CropScience agreed here late Friday to pay up to $750 million to farmers in Missouri and four other states to settle lawsuits over contamination of the U.S. rice supply by LibertyLink genetically modified rice in 2006. ?It was a devastating blow to a lot of rice farmers, and I?m tickled to death that we?ve finally reached a settlement where Bayer for the first time has offered to make it right to these farmers,? said St. Louis lawyer Don Downing, who was co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. ?I think it sends a signal to those who develop genetically modified seeds that they need to keep those seeds very carefully contained until they?re approved for human consumption,? Downing said."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


GENETIC RICE LAWSUIT IN ST. LOUIS SETTLED FOR $750 MILLION

ST. LOUIS - Bayer CropScience agreed here late Friday to pay up to $750 million to farmers in Missouri and four other states to settle lawsuits over contamination of the U.S. rice supply by LibertyLink genetically modified rice in 2006.

?It was a devastating blow to a lot of rice farmers, and I?m tickled to death that we?ve finally reached a settlement where Bayer for the first time has offered to make it right to these farmers,? said St. Louis lawyer Don Downing, who was co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

?I think it sends a signal to those who develop genetically modified seeds that they need to keep those seeds very carefully contained until they?re approved for human consumption,? Downing said.

But, he added, ?We were very careful all along ? not to say that these lawsuits are anti-GMO (genetically-modified organisms) because many of our farmers use GM crops.?

Bayer, based in Germany, released a statement that read, in part, ?Although Bayer CropScience believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice, the company considers it important to resolve the litigation so that it can move forward focused on its fundamental mission of providing innovative solutions to modern agriculture.?

When it was discovered in the rice supply, LibertyLink had not yet been approved for sale for human consumption. Rice futures plunged, and Japan and European countries banned the import of U.S. rice.

The first of what would eventually grow to more than 400 lawsuits representing 11,000 plaintiffs were filed within weeks. Many were eventually consolidated in federal court here.

LibertyLink rice has since been approved but has not been commercially marketed.

LibertyLink corn, soybeans and canola are on the market, Bayer spokesman Greg Coffey said.

All farmers in Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi who planted long grain rice in 2006-10 ? not just those who sued in state or federal court ? can participate in the settlement, said Downing and co-lead counsel Adam J. Levitt. It also includes landowners who allow others to farm their land, but does not include importers, exporters, rice mills and others.

Under terms of the settlement, farmers who planted at least 85 percent of the roughly 2.2 million acres of rice during those years must sign up or Bayer can walk away from the deal.

Bayer said it has already ?established appropriate provisions? for the settlement.

The settlement is broken down into three ?pots? of money. The first, and the easiest to get, offers $310 an acre to compensate farmers for market losses and is available to those who had long grain rice planted in 2006-10, with lesser amounts for farmers who only planted in some of those years.

The second pot is for farmers who planted either of two rice varieties in 2006, Clearfield 131 or Cheniere, that were most affected by the contamination. Many of those farmers had to leave fields fallow, plant lower-value crops or spend money cleaning equipment of contaminated rice, plaintiffs? lawyers said. Farmers will have to show receipts documenting their planting of those varieties.

The third pot is for those who feel that they lost more, and requires more documentation, lawyers said.

Friday?s settlement comes after a series of so-called ?bellwether? trials set up to allow representative cases to proceed to trial and to give all sides a signal of what could come in pending cases.

Asked about compensation, Levitt said that lawyers had private fee agreements with the clients who sued. A ?leadership team? of lawyers like Levitt and Downing and others who took on additional duties and expenses will receive additional money, he said.

In December 2009, a federal jury in St. Louis awarded $2 million to farmers. A different jury awarded $1.5 million in February 2010. Neither of those juries awarded punitive damages.

Last July, a federal jury in St. Louis awarded a Louisiana farmer, Denny Deshotels, $500,000 in one suit. Jurors were not given the option of punitive damages because of Louisiana law.

Two other bellwether cases settled, one a week into the trial and one the week before, Downing said.

In three state trials in Arkansas, jurors also found in favor of farmers, awarding $1 million in one trial, roughly $1 million or less in another and $6 million in actual damages and $42 million in punitive damages in the third, Downing said..

At trial, company lawyers argued that farmers who waited out the brief price hit suffered no losses and that Bayer was not negligent.

Friday?s settlement had not yet been filed in federal court in St. Louis, but plaintiffs? lawyers announced the deal at 4:35 p.m. and Bayer released its own statement a short time later.

Asked to explain the timing of the settlement, Levitt declined to comment.

Coffey said, ?We did release (the announcement) as soon as we could,? noting it was shortly after the agreement was signed.

Downing would only say: ?I can?t tell you why it ended up late in the afternoon on a holiday weekend. You can perhaps speculate about that yourself.?



                                  PART 6

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

TITLE:   BAYER CROPSCIENCE SETTLES BIOTECH RICE LITIGATION

SOURCE:  Bayer CropScience, Germany

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.bayer.com/en/news-detail.aspx?newsid=14819

DATE:    02.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Bayer CropScience has reached settlement agreements with attorneys representing U.S. long-grain rice growers in the biotech rice litigation. As agreed to in the settlements, Bayer CropScience will pay up to $750 million to resolve claims submitted by growers. [...] Although Bayer CropScience believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice, the company considers it important to resolve the litigation so that it can move forward focused on its fundamental mission of providing innovative solutions to modern agriculture."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


BAYER CROPSCIENCE SETTLES BIOTECH RICE LITIGATION

Research Triangle Park, N.C., July 2, 2011 ? Bayer CropScience has reached settlement agreements with attorneys representing U.S. long-grain rice growers in the biotech rice litigation. As agreed to in the settlements, Bayer CropScience will pay up to $750 million to resolve claims submitted by growers. The settlement program will be open to all U.S. farmers who had been growing long-grain rice during the period of 2006 through 2010.

Settlement agreements have been reached with two groups of lawyers. One agreement involves those cases that are a part of the federal multi-district litigation; the other involves those cases in state courts. BrownGreer PLC will administer the settlement processes for both agreements. Rice growers have a 90-day period in which to submit their claims.

Although Bayer CropScience believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice, the company considers it important to resolve the litigation so that it can move forward focused on its fundamental mission of providing innovative solutions to modern agriculture.

Bayer CropScience recommends all rice growers interested in participating in the settlement program consult a lawyer in regard to their claim submissions. The settlements are contingent on the participation of a sufficient number of growers to represent at least 85 percent of U.S. long-grain rice acreage.

Bayer CropScience regards the inclusion of all long-grain rice growers in the settlement program, whether they have filed a lawsuit or not, to be crucial to demonstrating the company?s long-term commitment to rice, which remains an important crop for Bayer CropScience throughout the world.

Bayer has already established appropriate provisions for the settlement program. BrownGreer PLC can be contacted at 866-673-5705 for information on submitting claims.

About Bayer CropScience

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. Bayer CropScience, a subgroup of Bayer AG with annual sales of EUR 6.830 billion (2010), 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 20,700 and is represented in more than 120 countries. This and further news is available at: www.press.bayercropscience.com.