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Contamination leads to legalization of gene-spliced rice; other news

(Friday, Dec. 15, 2006 ­ CropChoice news) --

1. Monsanto foes challenge seed company buy: WSJ
2. US food sector wary of GMO wheat - Gen Mills exec
3. Draining the gene pool
4. GM rice lawsuits could be merged
5. Flood-tolerant rice could aid environment
6. Glyphosate-resistant weeds more burden to growers’ pocketbooks
7. Contamination leads to legalization of gene-spliced rice
8. USDA deregulates disputed GMO rice

1. Monsanto foes challenge seed company buy: WSJ

By MarketWatch
Dec 10, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO -- Monsanto Co.'s opponents in the crop-biotechnology industry are trying to build Farm Belt opposition to the $1.5 billion acquisition to the $1.5 billion purchase of seed giant Delta & Pine Land Co., according to a media report Sunday.

St. Louis-based Monsanto's second attempt in seven years to buy Delta, the last publicly traded pure seed company in the U.S., could be running into trouble, The Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition.

As the U.S. Department of Justice continues its antitrust review, Monsanto competitor DuPont Co., the Swiss biotech company, is telling farmers the deal isn't in their best interest, The Journal reported.

Delta & Pine Land's seeds produce half of America's cotton, the nation's fifth-biggest crop, according to The Journal report.

Wall Street analysts have applauded the proposed combination because it would allow Monsanto to speed penetration of the cottonseed market with new genetically modified traits while ending several years of costly litigation between the two firms over their first breakup, The Journal said.

"We are disappointed that competitors are using extreme tactics to try to gin up opposition to a deal that would benefit U.S. cotton growers and the cotton industry," The Journal said it was told by Carl M. Casale, by executive vice president of Monsanto. "The regulators should be allowed to do their job and review this transaction without the background noise."

Delta & Pine Land Chief Executive and President Tom Jagodinski didn't return phone calls seeking comment, The Journal said.

For Delta shareholders, it is the latest chapter in an ill-starred romance between the Scott, Miss., company and Monsanto, The Journal said. Monsanto offered to buy Delta in 1998 for stock then valued at $1.8 billion, according to the report.

Monsanto backed out in December 1999 after antitrust regulators had reviewed the case for 19 months without making a decision, The Journal said.

To get Delta & Pine Land executives to shelve a lawsuit seeking $2 billion in damages over the breakup and consider a new offer, Monsanto promised to hand over $600 million if the new deal doesn't pass antitrust review by August 2007, a deadline that can be extended, The Journal reported.

The opposition of DuPont and other firms reflects Delta's role in their plans to challenge Monsanto's decade-long dominance of crop biotechnology, according to The Journal report, which noted that Monsanto owns brands that sell about 25% of the seed used to grow the two biggest U.S. crops, corn and soybeans, and has licensed independent seed companies to use its genes.

The majority of genetically modified crops, including corn, soybeans and cotton, contain Monsanto genes, which equip plants to make their own insecticide and to tolerate exposure to weed killers, the Journal said, adding that such traits make plants so much easier to tend that farmers are willing to pay far more for genetically modified seed than conventional seed.

DuPont and others are developing new genes with the aim of replacing Monsanto technology over the next decade, The Journal said. DuPont and Syngenta, which own brands of corn and soybean seed, don't control any cottonseed, according to the report.

Delta, the last publicly traded pure seed company in the U.S., had been making moves to break its dependence on Monsanto genes, The Journal said, adding that in July, a month before the proposed acquisition was announced, Delta struck a deal to use genes, under development at DuPont's Pioneer seeds unit, designed to give plants the same sort of immunity to weed killers as Monsanto genes.

had licensed Delta to use genes it is developing that instruct a plant how to make its own bug killer, The Journal said.

To make the deal more palatable to regulators, Monsanto is promising to divest its Stoneville cottonseed business, which controls 12% of the market, according to the report, and Monsanto executives said they would be interested in being able to offer Syngenta and DuPont genes in Delta & Pine Land cottonseed. They stopped short of promising to use competitors' genes.

2. US food sector wary of GMO wheat - Gen Mills exec

Tuesday, December 05, 2006
By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - The U.S. food industry is still not ready to embrace biotech wheat because of consumer wariness of genetic tinkering - even though wheat acres are declining, a General Mills Inc. (GIS.N: Quote, Profile , Research) executive said on Monday.

"We're going to continue to lose acres," Ron Olson, General Mills' vice president of grain operations, told Reuters in an interview.

"But the food industry is going to pay whatever it takes (for wheat)," he said before giving a presentation to the National Grain and Feed country elevator conference in Kansas City.

Olson said spring wheat imports from Canada would likely continue to grow because of U.S. acreage declines.

Still, Olson said years of work by biotech companies like St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. (MON.N: Quote, Profile , Research) and the Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta (SYNN.VX: Quote, Profile , Research) to make wheat production more attractive to farmers was facing too much consumer wariness for food companies to embrace the efforts.

"The food market is not ready for that," he said. "Our stock would get killed."

Monsanto shelved its development of herbicide-tolerant wheat in 2004. Syngenta has quietly been pursuing a genetically modified, disease-resistant spring wheat, but said earlier this year that it would not proceed with its biotech wheat project without the support of major food companies.

Olson said biotech agronomic traits like Syngenta's need to come second to traits that enhance nutrition or offer some other consumer appeal in order to overcome market opposition.

Currently there are no transgenic wheat varieties planted commercially anywhere in the world. But U.S. wheat farmers have been increasingly vocal in asking for technological advancements to help them grow wheat more profitably.

3. Draining the gene pool

[posted online on December 4, 2006]

In the summer of 2000, an ill wind blew onto David Vetter's 280-acre farm in Marquette, Nebraska. The farm had been organic since the 1950s, and Vetter had been breeding his own corn seed in the field using traditional techniques. The idea was to protect his independence as he watched the seed industry rapidly consolidating into the hands of Monsanto and a few other "gene giants." Then, in 2000, his seed tested positive for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). "They killed us," he says. "Ten years of work was gone just like that."

In 2005 genetically engineered (GE) seed was planted on 52 percent of US corn acreage. However, thanks to wind-borne pollen and other contamination, the agricultural community now commonly accepts that no American corn is 100 percent free of GE material--not even if it's certified organic.

The good news is that plant breeders might have a solution. It lies in a group of naturally occurring corn genes called GaS, which is bred into corn varieties using standard hybridization. With GaS, a plant will reject all pollen that doesn't also have those genes. It could be a miraculous biological fence to keep out those privately owned GE genes. There's just one hitch: It, too, is now privately owned.

As of April 2005, Hoegemeyer Hybrids, of Hooper, Nebraska, holds a patent for the use of GaS in hybrids and inbred lines of yellow dent corn--the kind that covers one-quarter of American farmland and anchors our entire agricultural economy. The company's GaS seed, dubbed PuraMaize, is slated for US release in 2008 and has patents pending around the world.

Such patents have lately become a frustrating fact of life in the plant-breeding community, but what really stings about this one is that it probably shouldn't have been issued. Researchers have known and written about GaS since the 1940s. It has been used in white and yellow corns, and employed in countless popcorn varieties to protect them from crossing with nearby field and sweet corns--to protect their "pop." As one researcher put it, "I'd love to hear someone explain how Hoegemeyer's use qualifies as new."

Among those left frustrated is Margaret Smith, a professor and plant breeder at Cornell University. In 2002 Smith began breeding GaS into corn varieties in response to pleas from local organic growers for protection against pollen drift. As a public breeder, Smith's job is to find out what farmers need, and try to provide it. But because of the patent, anyone who wants to use her GaS variety will need to comply with whatever licensing fees and royalties Hoegemeyer Hybrids requires.

As a result, smaller farmers like Vetter may find that PuraMaize is out of their reach. The university researchers and seed companies that smaller farmers rely on often have neither the staff to negotiate licensing agreements nor the money to pay them. The companies with the means to use the technology would tack the added costs onto the price of the seed, and possibly require a large minimum purchase, both of which could make it too expensive for Vetter. Or companies could simply decide that, for any number of reasons, producing seed that works for Vetter's region is not profitable enough--so Vetter wouldn't even be given the chance to buy it.

The sad thing is that Hoegemeyer Hybrids is, in some ways, also one of the "little guys." It was founded in 1937 and has always been a family-owned business. After a recent spate of corporate acquisitions, it is also the last remaining small seed company in Nebraska. Indeed, Hoegemeyer sought the patent on GaS partly as a strategic move to preserve its independence. "We're not looking to make a zillion dollars off of this or to exclude other people from the marketplace," chief technology officer Tom Hoegemeyer said. "We just want to be able to participate in the industry for the long term."

Despite good intentions, in this age of consolidation it's likely that Hoegemeyer Hybrids and its patent will be bought out too. The company already has a formal partnership with Syngenta, the very corporation that acquired Hoegemeyer's seed-company neighbors. This Swiss company is the world's largest agrichemical manufacturer and one of the top four seed producers. Through the partnership with Hoegemeyer, Syngenta had a hand in developing PuraMaize, and in January William Olson, a former sales development manager with Syngenta, came on as PuraMaize development manager. Some think it's only a matter of time before the absorption is complete.

In such a gene giant's hands, the GaS patent could be applied the same way that patents on GMOs are now. To use GE seed, farmers sign contracts that prohibit seed-saving and allow the corporation to monitor the crops in farmers' fields for violations indefinitely, even if the farmer stops buying the seed. (The legal departments that enforce this are, of course, amply funded and staffed.) Given that GaS could be critical for organic growers, some researchers fear that such ownership of the patent would mean even greater corporate control over organics. And that's all if the gene stays in use. Given that pollen drift has spread GMOs like a nefarious Johnny Appleseed, it could be in biotech's interest to shelve the GaS shield.

The exact future of GaS remains to be seen. But the potential consequences point to a deeper problem in twenty-first-century plant breeding, rooted in the patent system. Before 1980 plant breeding was governed by the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA). This law allowed breeders to own the plant varieties they created but kept the raw genetic materials in the public domain. When in Diamond v. Chakrabarty the Supreme Court ruled that it was legal to patent genes, the rules changed. If PVPA protection acted like a copyright on a book, the gene patents meant ownership of individual words. In order to write today, one must have the money to buy the words.

It follows that those who end up controlling plant breeding guide their decisions by profitability, not what is best for the farmers or the public they serve. "This system offers ways for people to make money quickly but provides no public good," Vetter says. "So far as I can tell, the only ones that are served are the holders of the patents." Meanwhile, those without the money must try to write solutions using an increasingly limited vocabulary. This is why the GaS patent is such a slap in the face: Farmers and publicly funded breeders such as Smith have been largely shut out of the process by which agriculture's decisions are made. Those tools still in the public domain are crucial to their work; with Hoegemeyer's patent, another one is lost. "We as a society don't seem to have a venue for deciding if this is a good thing," Smith says. "We seem to think that if the market will support it, it must be OK. But I, for one, don't necessarily agree with that."

4. GM rice lawsuits could be merged

Friday, December 01, 2006
By Christopher Leonard, Business Week

Thirteen lawsuits over the accidental spread of genetically altered rice could soon be combined into one legal action against Bayer CropScience AG, lawyers representing hundreds of rice farmers said Thursday.

Attorneys told a panel of federal judges in St. Louis that the lawsuits should be tried collectively in front of one judge. But the lawyers mostly disagreed over which state should host the proceedings.

The farmers from Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri allege the rice market was hurt after Bayer's strain of genetically engineered Liberty Link rice was accidentally released from test plots in the United States.

They want Bayer to pay them for lost revenue and to clean up farms and rice bins that might be contaminated with Liberty Link grains.

The incident caused concern in Europe and Japan, two big markets for U.S. rice. Prices dropped after Japan suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice and the European Union required extensive testing of all U.S. rice shipments.

The Liberty Link rice wasn't approved for human consumption, but tests indicated it somehow found its way into mainstream rice supplies in Missouri and Arkansas. Bayer and federal regulators are investigating how that happened.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture retroactively approved the rice last week. It's unclear how that might affect Japanese and European acceptance of the rice.

St. Louis attorney Don Downing argued Thursday that the 13 lawsuits should be combined and tried in St. Louis federal court.

Downing said judges in the district are familiar with issues in the case because they oversee so many cases filed against Monsanto Co., the St. Louis company that's the world's biggest producer of genetically altered seeds.

Little Rock attorney Scott Poynter said the case should be tried in Arkansas because the state is the biggest rice producer in the United States.

"Whether this case is won or whether it's lost, one thing is sure: The people most affected by this case are going to be Arkansas farmers," Poynter said.

The panel of seven federal judges will now rule whether to combine the suits and decide where they might be heard. Attorneys for the farmers expected the ruling within the next month.

5. Flood-tolerant rice could aid environment

UC Davis greenhouse harbors plants that defy farming wisdom By ROBIN HINDERY/The Associated Press

Inside a greenhouse on the UC Davis campus, a group of rice plants is defying conventional farming wisdom and thriving in a formerly life-threatening environment - under water.

A new variety of flood-tolerant rice soon could make its way from the lab to the field, offering California rice farmers and environmental advocates a potential weapon against both crop-ravaging weeds and water pollution.

The research is the product of a 20-year-old collaboration between UCD, UC Riverside and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. The team isolated a gene within certain traditional rice plants that allows them to survive complete submergence. Researchers then cloned the gene and implanted it into commercially viable rice plants.

The result was a new variety that can survive under water for up to two weeks. Rice plants typically will die if completely submerged for more than a few days.

"This gene has actually been known for about 50 years, but researchers were unable to make use of it because it is thought to be quite complex," said Pamela Ronald, a UCD-based rice geneticist who has been working on the project for about a decade.

The new plants could benefit the state's rice industry, said Tim Johnson, president of the California Rice Commission. California ranks only behind Arkansas among rice-producing states, with an annual export profit of $200 million.

"Right now, you need a combination of water and herbicides to get rice to grow actively, produce a great crop and at the same time compete against weeds," Johnson said. "Our hope is that with submergence-tolerant rice, you could use even less herbicide and still eliminate weeds, which are our number one pest."

At present, the dominant farming method involves planting pre-germinated seeds in a field flooded with about five inches of water, the greatest depth normal rice plants can withstand. Ideally, the plants begin to grow before weeds can catch up to them. Herbicides are applied as an added protective measure.

Those herbicides, while vital to farmers, have caused concern among environmentalists and groups monitoring the safety and purity of the state's drinking water supply.

About 95 percent of California's rice - roughly 500,000 acres - is farmed in the Sacramento Valley. Much of the chemical runoff from rice fields flows into the 382-mile-long Sacramento River, the heart of a system that supplies about two-thirds of the state's drinking water.

The rice industry has tried to control its use of chemicals in recent years, contributing to a major reduction in the river's herbicide content, Johnson said.

"We have very strict environmental regulations here, and California rice is specifically regulated for water quality," he said.

Rice farmers are required to keep the water in their fields contained for about 30 days after applying herbicides to let the chemicals degrade before they enter the water supply. But farmers' methods and their compliance varies.

"Things happen," said Roland Pang, the water quality superintendent for the Department of Utilities in Sacramento.

"If (researchers) are successful in developing a flood-tolerant rice plant, and it reduces herbicide use, then that is a very good thing," he said. "Production would be less expensive, and there would be less exposure to the river."

The cost of fighting weeds has been a growing problem for many farmers.

"Weed control of all types is costing us about $150 an acre every year," said Frank Rehermann, who farms 800 acres of rice in Live Oak, about 45 miles north of Sacramento.

"Weeds that we have in the fields are getting more difficult to control. Every year, they're a little more resistant to what we put on them."

Greg Massa, a fourth-generation rice farmer in Glenn and Colusa counties, said the new variety also could help organic farms such as his. Most organic farmers use a deep-water planting method as an alternative to herbicides, but the process is risky, he said.

"We have to push the rice to the limits of its ability to survive in order to kill (the weeds)," he said. "Flood-tolerant rice could have huge benefits for both conventional and organic rice growers."

Such rice also would help keep planting on schedule during wet spring weather. This year, rice planting was delayed about two weeks due to heavy rainfall. A variety that could withstand submergence would be unaffected by flooding.

Although the benefits to U.S. rice farmers would be significant, it is in developing nations that flood-tolerant rice could have the most immediate impact, researchers say.

More than a quarter of the global rice crop is grown in lowland areas that are prone to unpredictable seasonal flash floods. Each year, millions of small farmers in the poorest areas of the world lose their entire rice crops to flooding, a loss that has been estimated at more than $1 billion.

Scientists from one arm of the flood-tolerant rice project, the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, are testing the strain in southern Asia. Through a variation on traditional breeding, they have successfully developed submergence-tolerant versions of three major local rice varieties, with an additional three on the way in the next few months, said Dave Mackill, one of the institute's lead researchers.

One of the varieties was tested this year in rice fields in India and Bangladesh, but its performance was difficult to rate because there were no major floods in the area, Mackill said.

The UC Davis research team has not yet tested the new plant variety outside the lab but hopes to receive grant money to start working with local growers, Ronald said. For now, the focus is identifying other genes that might contribute to a plant's tolerance for extended submergence.

"We need to start figuring out what these genes do so we can use them for different applications," Ronald said. "Why are some plants more resistant to environmental stresses? The answer to that could help farmers all over the world."

6. Glyphosate-resistant weeds more burden to growers’ pocketbooks

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
By Forrest Laws
Prism Business Media Inc

Cotton producers who encounter glyphosate-resistant horseweed in their fields may be tempted to fall back on a solution that served their fathers and grandfathers well: cold steel.

Before you pull that disk out of the weeds on the back side of the equipment lot, however, think about this: Do you really want to spend all that extra money on diesel fuel and labor and undo the benefits of conservation tillage you’ve worked so hard on all these years?

And there’s another consideration, according to Larry Steckel, Extension weed scientist with the University of Tennessee, and a speaker at Cotton Incorporated’s recent Crop Management Seminar in Memphis.

“You have to be careful,” says Steckel, displaying a photo of a freshly disked field with green horseweed plumes sticking up in it. “If you don’t do a thorough job of disking, you can wind up with a worse problem than when you started.”

There’s no doubt glyphosate-resistant horseweed has set back conservation tillage efforts in Tennessee, says Steckel, who spoke on “The Impact of Glyphosate-Resistant Horseweed and Pigweed on Cotton Weed Management and Costs.” (The University of Georgia’s Stanley Culpepper and Arkansas’ Ken Smith were co-authors.)

In a 2004 survey, county Extension agents said glyphosate-resistant horseweed had reduced conservation tillage farming in Tennessee by 18 percent. Even more telling, the survey showed the percentage of farms using conservation tillage in the largest cotton counties in Tennessee had dropped from 80 to 40 percent.

Arkansas weed scientists estimate a 15 percent reduction in conservation tillage in their state due to glyphosate resistance. Similar trends have been reported in Mississippi and the Bootheel of Missouri.

Glyphosate-resistant horseweed has spread much more quickly than anticipated when Bob Hayes, a weed scientist with the West Tennessee Experiment Station in Jackson, discovered it in west Tennessee’s Lauderdale County.

“It’s in all our cotton acres now,” Steckel told Crop Management Seminar participants. “Horseweed can grow in Tennessee 11 months out of the year. It has a very aggressive tap root, and it loves a no-till environment.”

Horseweed (it is sometimes called marestail) also competes well with cotton. Studies show horseweed can reduce cotton yields by 40 percent when left unchecked through the two-leaf stage. If not controlled between planting and first bloom, losses can reach 70 percent.

The staggering increase in glyphosate-resistant horseweed followed a spectacular rise in the amount of glyphosate products (Roundup, Touchdown and others) being applied in cotton and other glyphosate-tolerant crops.

“We saw a 752-percent increase in glyphosate applications between 1997 and 2003 at the expense of just about everything else with the exception of diuron (Karmex, Direx),” said Steckel. (Applications of diuron jumped 101.1 percent during the same period while those of other herbicides declined.)

As most farmers now know, weed scientists with the University of Georgia have documented cases of glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed in southwest Georgia. More recently, glyphosate-tolerant Palmer pigweed has been found in Crockett and Lauderdale counties in Tennessee and Mississippi County in Arkansas. Resistant waterhemp, a cousin of pigweed, has also been found in Missouri.

Culpepper, a weed scientist with the University of Georgia, also discussed Palmer pigweed resistance in Georgia at the Cotton Incorporated seminar.

“Scientists at Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have found an 8x to 12x level of resistance to glyphosate in Palmer pigweeds in their states,” said Steckel. “We’ve seen pigweed survive 2x to 4x rates of glyphosate in Arkansas and Tennessee.

“When you look at some of the slides Stanley (Culpepper) showed earlier, it’s a shock. We don’t have near the weed problem with Palmer pigweed in this part of the world that they do in Georgia.”

Weed scientists say glyphosate-resistant horseweed and pigweed can be managed with a combination of herbicides, but it will cost growers more.

One approach has been to burn down with glyphosate or paraquat (Gramoxone Inteon) plus 8 to 12 ounces of dicamba (Clarity, Oracle) in early February and go back with Gramoxone at 48 ounces plus Ignite at 29 ounces plus Caparol at 32 ounces, Cotoran at 32 ounces or Direx at 16 ounces 21 days before planting.

Some growers have also been making a fall (November or December) herbicide application with Valor at 2 ounces plus Clarity or Oracle at 8 ounces. Others have applied Valor plus Caparol, Cotoran or Direx in February.

“A fall application of Valor has been getting a lot of attention from growers,” says Steckel. “You’ve got to get some residual control out there to keep the horseweed from emerging during the winter.”

Envoke has also received a label from EPA for fall and early winter application in cotton fields. Envoke will provide residual and knockdown control of glyphosate-resistant horseweed and other winter annuals. The use rate will be 0.10 ounce per acre.

“Trying to burn down large horseweed that got its start the summer of the previous year or early in the fall is going to be hard with anything,” said Steckel. “If a grower catches these populations early with a residual herbicide, he will be ahead of the game.”

Cotton farmers can spend an extra $20 per acre to control glyphosate-resistant horseweed by the time they add Valor, Clarity and Caparol to their program, according to Steckel.

For glyphosate-resistant horseweed and pigweed, the cost could rise $27 an acre if they have to apply a maximum rate of glyphosate; add Dual Magnum over-the-top with the first or second glyphosate spray, followed by a post-directed application of Caparol or Dual and Valor or Caparol in a hooded sprayer.

But that’s not as expensive as what growers already face in southwest Georgia, says Steckel.

Control costs for glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed in Georgia can range from another $45 an acre to as high as $92 an acre in fields where farmers have had to resort to hand weeding to remove the problem weed.

“Glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed can be much more problematic than horseweed due to its more competitive nature,” says Steckel. “On average, glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed could cost cotton producers an extra $40 per acre or more to manage.

“Because of that, we think glyphosate-resistant pigweed is a much bigger threat to cotton production, and every year we can delay its arrival in the Mid-South can mean big savings to our producers.”

7. Contamination leads to legalization of gene-spliced rice

by Megan Tady

Nov. 28 ­ Rather than penalize the company that slipped an illegal strain of genetically modified rice into the human food supply, the USDA has simply approved the grain for marketing.

Last week, the USDA "deregulated" the genetically engineered (GE) rice known as Liberty Link (LL) 601. The rice's DNA has been modified to help the plant resist herbicides.

As previously reported by The NewStandard, the USDA announced in August that US commercial long-grain rice supplies had been contaminated with "trace amounts" of GE rice that was unapproved for human consumption. The rice was manufactured by the corporation Bayer CropScience.

Less than four months after the announcement, the USDA has approved Bayer's petition to deregulate the rice, saying a "thorough review of scientific evidence" shows the genetically altered rice is "as safe as its traditionally bred counterparts."

The USDA said an investigation to determine how the gene-modified strain was initially released, and if Bayer violated federal regulations, is "nearly complete."

Calling the USDA's approval a "rubber stamp," the Center for Food Safety warned of the implications of the agency's decision in a press statement.

"In effect, USDA is sanctioning an 'approval-by-contamination' policy that can only increase the likelihood of untested genetically engineered crops entering the food supply in the future," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center.

Bayer CropScience says it does not intend to commercialize the rice.gen

8. USDA deregulates disputed GMO rice

REUTERS, Nov 24 2006

WASHINGTON, Nov 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Friday that it has deregulated a strain of genetically altered rice whose discovery this year triggered concern around the world.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced that after a thorough review of scientific evidence it will deregulate genetically engineered LLRICE601 based on the fact that it is as safe as its traditionally bred counterparts," USDA said in a statement.

The request for deregulation came from Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), which notified the government in July that it had found small amounts of LLRICE601 in commercial long-grain rice. That finding led some countries to require certification for some kinds of U.S. rice.

USDA spokesman said the rice could now be grown without oversight from the department.