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USA Rice forms Seed Committee to address GMO trait issues

The USA Rice Federation has formed a Seed Committee to develop a plan to try to eliminate LibertyLink traits from the commercial rice seed supply beginning with the 2007 crop.

Members of the committee were scheduled to meet in Dallas the week of Oct. 30 to begin working on the plan. Participants were expected to include representatives from USDA, state plant boards, rice research stations, rice seed dealers, rice producers, rice millers and rice merchants.

Federation leaders said they were taking the action following the discovery of a trace amount of LibertyLink 601, rice that has been genetically altered to be resistant to glufosinate (LibertyLink) herbicide, on Aug. 18.

Since the finding in August, European Union member countries have closed their markets to U.S. rice and other countries have raised questions about the potential for the presence of the material in shipments of U.S. rice.

“A major focus of USA Rice will be leadership of an industry-wide effort to rid the commercial U.S. rice supply of LibertyLink genetically engineered traits (LLRICE06 and LLRICE62 and LLRICE601),” the federation said.

“We are taking this action because of the lack of regulatory approval and consumer acceptance of LibertyLink in overseas markets.”

The federation said the focus on the 2007 crop will bolster ongoing work to keep foreign markets open for U.S. rice or reopening them in the case of the European Union countries.

It also addressed the question of legal action by the federation in a paper on the organization's Web site.

“Strong legal precedent indicates that USA Rice and its member organizations lack legal ‘standing’ to file a lawsuit to seek damages suffered by members due to the presence of LLRICE601 in the commercial U.S. rice supply,” USA Rice said. “Such lawsuits for damages must be brought in the names of individual USA Rice members or by representation on their behalf in class action lawsuits.

“A class representative must have suffered damages like those suffered by the class members. USA Rice has not suffered damages and thus cannot serve as a class representative in a class action lawsuit.”

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