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Industry must pull together on LL601 issue

I recently retuned from a USA Rice Federation Seed Committee meeting in Dallas dealing with how to clean LL601-containing rice from the system. The LL601 event may well be deregulated and the regulatory community and scientific community is in agreement that any rice containing this protein poses no threat to human health.

However, certain segments of the market have said they will not buy rice that tests positive for LL601. While I do not agree with that decision, there is nothing I can do about it. To have strong prices, there must be strong demand.

There is an entire discussion on what a positive test is because that depends entirely on the levels of detection and the lowest limit being tested for.

As a weed scientist who listened much and spoke little at this meeting (which is out of character for me), I came home from the meeting hearing a clear message from the rice millers: “We will not accept Cheniere in 2007.” The clear message from the seed industry: “We will not sell Cheniere in 2007.”

I have heard some say we should just blow off the EU and some other countries that are making this a political issue rather than a scientific issue. Most of us probably have some of those feelings. Those feelings, at least in the short term, do not line up with selling all of the rice we want to grow for a good price.

Others are disappointed or upset about not being able to grow Cheniere simply because it is an excellent rice variety. I do not know of anyone who believes Cheniere is not an excellent variety.

As a weed scientist, I would love to see LibertyLink rice accepted and grown, because it is excellent weed control technology. For the near-term, however, that is not where we are. We have LL601 in the U.S. rice supply, and that has to be dealt with whether it is a scientific issue or a political issue.

There was a wide range of people at the Dallas meeting with an amazing level of agreement among them. That agreement was the most logical first step to correcting an industrywide problem: purge Cheniere from the system.

I thought it spoke volumes when the seed industry took the stand it did. A lot of those guys are going to lose a lot of money because there is a lot of Cheniere seed rice in the system.

That says to me that nobody sees an alternative. It is easy to be negative, but who has a better idea?

The millers at the meeting felt strongly enough about the decision that they are going to require proof of variety and a seed certificate of origin for rice being delivered.

Decisions like this place more hardships on some than others. This, however, is an industrywide issue that is going to require everyone pulling together. From what I can see, the best minds in the rice industry see no short-term solution other than purging Cheniere from the system.

I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to come together on this point whether or not there is complete agreement. It is very doubtful that we will ever be able to say again that U.S. rice is “GMO-free.” Hopefully, however, we will get it down to a level that will be accepted to all of our customers.

I have had a lot of questions about the survival of Cheniere as a variety. There is foundation seed that tests negative. I did not hear any sort of mandate at this meeting to kill Cheniere as a variety. Whether it survives as a variety after it is purged from the system will likely be based on demand and whether or not the seed industry will ramp back up for it.

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