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Findings will be important APHIS investigates LL601 rice issue

I have had a lot of email and telephone feedback over my Sept. 8 article on the LibertyLink situation. The bulk of the comments were very positive, but a few took me to task on everything from choice of individual words to my overall stance.

I love getting feedback and as I stated in the followup article, we all do not think alike. Just because someone disagrees with me does not mean I am right and they are wrong.

One individual made the comment that it appeared that I had moved from the side of the farmer to doing damage control for big business. My entire career has been about being on the side of the farmer.

None of my comments on this issue have been intended to take sides for or against anyone. I have simply voiced my perspective from where I sit. As I stated last week, I do not think it is a good thing that we are in the situation we are in with the LL601 showing up in our commercial rice.

My wish for every farmer is for soybeans to be over $10 and rice over $5 per bushel. As long as LibertyLink rice has been under development, it is not a huge surprise that some has shown up. I would still submit that one day farmers are going to want this technology. However, market reaction has stated strongly there is still a ways to go for acceptance.

Some of the questions outlined in my Sept. 8 article have been partially answered, but we are a long way from having all of the answers. We know a little more about at least one source of the LL601 from the LSU announcement about it being found in earlier foundation Cheniere. It will be interesting to see if it was a variety contaminant in that seed or if the LL601 gene was actually in the Cheniere variety.

While the source of the LL601 gene in our rice supply is one question, a much bigger question is where it is in relationship to the crop in the field. Everyone has more questions than answers at this point.

APHIS/USDA is investigating the situation and I would bet on two things: first, the investigation will be very thorough and provide the answers to most questions; and second the report or reports will be slower coming out than most would like.

When the investigation is complete, it will be interesting to see if the LL601 is within certain varieties — that is a part of the variety itself — or a contaminant variety containing the gene.

We have the problem and everyone wants to know how to move forward. I don't think we are going to know how to move forward until the APHIS/USDA report or reports are in.

That has been my point about the lawsuits. I do not fault anyone for suing if that is what they feel they need to do. However, until all of the facts are known, attorneys are simply throwing mud against the wall for 40 percent of any that might stick.

Farmers have a lot of marketing questions and to me marketing issues can best be handled by marketing people. It would seem very difficult at this point for a farmer to do much about the problem on an individual basis.

A lot of farmers have questions about seed grown in the field this year and also about planting seed for next year. That, too, will take time to sort out. Quite likely everybody is going to be testing everything.

While the APHIS reports and testing data may not come as quickly as desired, at some point there will be so much information coming out that you will be into information overload.

Because a lot of farmers' decisions are made months in advance, it is difficult to be patient. In this case you may not have a lot of choice. I have complete confidence that once the information is all in, our industry will properly handle the issue and on an individual basis, you will know what to do.

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