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Must work together: All have roles in solving rice problems

Much continues to be written regarding the LibertyLink rice situation as new information becomes available.

I have always had a policy that regardless of the situation a farmer was in, I would never be personally critical of that individual. I have been in a lot of situations that made me wonder what he was thinking when the decision was made, but I always focused on dealing with the problem rather than criticizing the farmer. That will never change.

I continue to hear and read about lawsuits being filed — some essentially farmers suing farmers or farmers suing themselves. Again, we all do not think alike and just because someone thinks differently than I does not mean they are wrong. If you feel a need to sue somebody over the LibertyLink situation, I will not be personally critical.

Believe me, I do not think it is a good thing that we are in this situation and I have a very soft spot for any farmer hurt financially by it.

The big issue is the sudden drop in price, and if the price returns to where it was or above, there isn't much to sue over. It seems to me that the longer the lawyers can fan the lawsuit flames, the longer the market will be negatively impacted.

There is a lot about this situation that I do not know. However, there are some things I do know.

First, Steve Linscombe and his rice breeding program at LSU are both world class. LSU has announced that the LL601 trait has been found in 2003 foundation Cheniere seed. I do not know how it got there but I will bet it was not due to negligence.

Steve has been aggressive in developing LibertyLink rice varieties because he sees the potential for the technology if the market is ever ready. Without the aggressive approach Steve takes, Clearfield rice would not be where it is today. We simply must have new technology for future sustainability.

I worked extensively with LibertyLink rice in my former position as a university scientist. The weed control potential of the LibertyLink technology far exceeds that of the Clearfield technology.

Everyone knows that the Clearfield technology can only take us so far and last so long without alternative approaches for control of red rice and other weeds.

Prior to the announcement that the LL601 gene had been detected, one of the most common questions farmers asked was, “Are we ever going to get Roundup Ready or LibertyLink rice?” The question would usually be followed with something along the lines of “we sure need it.”

What must happen for the technology to go forward is for the value to the farmer in the field to become greater than any potentially negative impact in the market.

When I read that some feel Bayer CropScience was negligent in developing the LibertyLink technology, I have to wonder if the same people feel Monsanto was negligent for developing the Bt and Roundup Ready technologies and if the same people would not like to have LibertyLink rice on their farms if the market eventually accepts it.

There is a system in place for developing biotechnology. It should also be noted that the United States is not the only country developing biotechnology in rice. In the United States, the system governed by APHIS and USDA has served us well to this point.

One can always question the timing of the development of LibertyLink rice, and when the proper agencies are through with their investigations they may find a need to tweak some of the regulations. However, we have a problem now and we must find a way to move forward.

Regardless of the cause, it is an industry-wide problem and we will be able to move forward quicker if the industry pulls together. Level heads need to prevail.

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