Bayer rice scandal could cost $1.2 billion

The cost of last year’s scandal in which Bayer’s genetically modified rice contaminated US stocks sold on the international market could exceed $1 billion, according to research for Greenpeace International.

Products containing rice contaminated by a GM herbicide-tolerant strain during field trials were found in US rice supplies in 2006.

The discovery triggered the largest financial and marketing disaster in the US rice industry’s history. At least 60% of exports were affected as many countries closed their markets to US rice, including major importers such as the EU.

Greenpeace estimates the overall cost to thousands of growers, processors and retailers around the world was between $741 million and $1.28 billion.

"The exorbitant cost of this contamination scandal should be a warning to any industry thinking of venturing down the genetic engineering route," said Dr Doreen Stabinsky, GM campaigner at Greenpeace International.

"It is clear that engineered crops, even field trials, are a high-risk, high-cost threat to everyone in the conventional food production chain."

An official review of the incident by the UK’s Food Standards Agency will begin on 29 November. It comes after Friends of the Earth sought a judicial review over the matter (ENDS Report 382, pp 22-23 ).

The judge ruled that while the Food Standards Agency had not acted illegally, it had made a number of mistakes in its handling of the incident, including delayed advice to local authorities and a decision not to issue a food alert.authorities.