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Farmer says Rice industry at shaky crossroads

I continue to get a lot of feedback from my articles on LibertyLink rice. There have been two types — those who agree and are very supportive and those who really took me to task. Fortunately there were only a couple of these.

I enjoy the feedback and am glad folks are reading the articles. I also enjoy getting the perspectives of people who do not agree with my position.

One response was from a farmer in California. Looking from his perspective, I could not disagree with most of what he had to say. However, my perspective as a weed scientist working with the weed problems we have in Arkansas is quite different.

A farmer from Arkansas whom I have tremendous respect for made a point that I had been trying to make but he said it much more effectively. It was along the lines of “the rice industry is at a very shaky crossroads at this time and we don't need extra issues derailing the train… If we don't get more level heads to draw our industry back together, I'm afraid it could start dying on the vine.”

I had been trying to make that point. Some have apparently misinterpreted some of my comments to mean that I didn't think the whole LibertyLink issue amounts to a hill of beans.

The initial market response said it all. It hurt farmers.

The good news at this point is the market seems to be recovering. My point has been that, good or bad, it happened. I am sure that when everything is known and all the reports are in, if somebody needs spanking or whipping or suing, he will get it.

Back to the farmers' response: we do not need the LibertyLink issue to contribute to a train derailment. Likewise, we do not need a “divide and conquer approach” to the issue now that it has occurred to derail the train. We need the entire industry to pull together to get through this thing.

When all is said and done, the proper corrective measures should be taken. The news now indicates we are on the road to recovery.

A couple of folks have taken me to task on the entire GMO issue. I think the technology is a good thing. Some disagree. I do not feel it is the ultimate answer to everything, but it is a good thing. It is in its infancy and consumers are leery of it at this point.

A big part of the consumers' problem is they see no obvious benefit for them. The fact the first large-scale commercial ventures into the technology were for insect and weed control has likely contributed to the acceptance issue. The consumer sees only benefits for farmers and big business.

Hopefully the technology will expand into other areas and there will be more obvious benefits to the consumer.

I received a comment that the “superweeds” were developing to Roundup just as predicted. A person can define a superweed any way he wishes. What is really happening is we are getting resistance in some weeds due to overuse of the technology — just as predicted. The reason it is overused is because it is better than anything else available.

Many of those same weeds are already resistant to previous herbicides that were also overused when they were the best we had. If we would simply rotate the Roundup Ready technology with conventional technology, we could prevent most of the resistance development.

Most farmers won't rotate because the Roundup Ready technology is too good. I submit that when the issue at hand in rice passes — and it will — farmers will have to have Roundup Ready rice, LibertyLink rice or another type of breakthrough for technology to move forward.

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