By Daniel Gumm
THE legal action instituted against Bayer CropScience AG by farmers in the United States for allegedly contaminating their farms with Genetically Modified (GM) rice seeds in 2006 is a further confirmation of the validity of tests carried out on rice samples collected by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in Nigeria and other West African countries within the same period which showed contamination.
More than 1,000 farmers from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri, have sued Bayer AG, based in Leverkusen, Germany, in a case filed with U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry who is guiding both sides in talks over out-of-court settlements.
Lawyer for Bayer and attorneys representing Missouri farmers made opening statements on November 4 to a nine-person jury while a second such trial is to start in January, involving farmers from Arkansas and Mississippi claiming that the export market for their crops was curtailed when the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2006 announced that trace amounts of Bayerâ€™s GM rice had been found in U.S. long-grain stocks.
Reacting to the development, ERA/FoEN said the US litigation showed the extent the biotechnology industry and its allies will go to â€œundermine food suppliesâ€ to unsuspecting consumers especially in Africa where there are weak biosafety laws.
â€œWhile we hail the suits, it is extremely disheartening that these startling revelations have not compelled the Nigerian government to acknowledge the result of the Nigerian tests or put in place effective legal, administrative and infrastructural framework to check the illegal dumping of unwholesome foods in the country,â€ said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.
Bassey noted that the unauthorized distribution of GMO seeds in any guise voids the precautionary principle and that the biotech industry and transnational agribusinesses have over the years pushed GMO to Africa in the guise of food aid while hiding under the cover of the World Food Programme (WFP) funded majorly by the US.
It would be recalled that after the revelation that the LLRICE601 had contaminated food supply in Europe and Japan Friends of the Earth Africa under the coordination of ERA embarked on monitoring rice supply in Western Africa, a region that imports most of the rice destined to Africa.