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In LL601 situation: Finger-pointing should wait for facts

The topic of most interest at the recent Rice Outlook Conference seemed to be the LLRice601 situation.

One presentation was by Bruce Knight, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, USDA/APHIS. For a “government man” he struck me as a straight shooter. As a scientist, it was refreshing to hear him reiterate that USDA was approaching the entire LibertyLink situation from the standpoint of science.

It is obvious LLRice62 and LLRice06 are of no concern to USDA because they have passed strict scientific muster. LLRice601 has passed the same criteria.

The difference between 601 and the others is it was not deregulated at the time it was discovered in the U.S. rice crop and that it continues to be deregulated only in the U.S.

62 and 06 were deregulated in 1999 in the U.S. and have been deregulated in several other countries.

Knight commented briefly on the on-going APHIS investigation to determine how LLRice601 got into foundation Cheniere. He pointed out that some rice samples have also tested positive for LLRice62, but that it is of no concern to them because it was already deregulated.

No results were disclosed, but he stated there will be full disclosure when the investigation is complete. I hope it is soon. The results of that investigation will determine everything in the finger-pointing and blame game.

I am extremely interested to see if LLRice601 is found to be in a contaminant variety, for example LL601 Cocodrie, or if the protein is in the Cheniere variety itself. If it is a contaminant variety, then it is a matter of human error.

If it is in the Cheniere itself, then it most likely occurred due to outcrossing, which would mean the required buffers were not wide enough or it was unavoidable.

Some readers have interpreted some of my comments to indicate that I have taken sides, especially with Bayer CropScience rather than the farmer.

I know that the farmer will ultimately bear the cost for the LL601.

Whether or not it ultimately affected the price of rice is a matter of debate and on that I do not have an opinion.

However, there is no debate that this has cost the industry a lot of money in terms of rice that was rejected at delivery and had to be shipped back to the states, seed that was grown and now can not be sold, and cleanup costs.

As with everything else in farming, those costs will ultimately be paid by the farmer.

I do not agree with it or like it but I can not do anything about it.

Perhaps it will be determined something is owed, but it is doubtful individual farmers will realize much from it.

Since I have not been out any money directly due to the issue, perhaps I see it a little differently. As a scientist, I worked with GE crops such as Roundup Ready soybean, cotton and corn and LibertyLink soybean and rice.

I know there were USDA/APHIS approved procedures for working with the GE crops.

How stringent they were depended a lot upon the stage of development of the particular GE crop.

When the seed was delivered by the company and the chain of custody was completed, putting them in my possession, I reported to APHIS from that point through harvest and destruction of the crop and the handling of any leftover seed.

If something had gone haywire under my watch that was the company's fault, I would have blamed them.

On the other hand, if it were my fault, I would not have blamed the company for developing the technology nor for allowing me to work with it, since I was eager to do so.

If something had gone haywire due to outcrossing or an act of God, I would not have blamed anybody.

My having worked directly with the process is the reason I keep emphasizing the need to wait on the finger-pointing and blame until the final reports are in. Perhaps they will indicate Bayer CropScience was at fault. Perhaps they will show someone else was.

They may show, however, nobody was truly at fault.

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