The holiday season is a little brighter for more than 2,500 Hare Wynn rice farmer-clients who will soon receive payments as a result of a historic $750 million settlement in a lawsuit against Bayer Cropscience. The lawsuits that prompted the eventual settlement were filed as a result of the corruption of farmers’ crops by a genetically engineered strain of rice produced by the Bayer Cropscience.
"This settlement was crucial to the survivability of thousands of rice growing farms and families in this country,” states Scott Powell, lead counsel with Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton. “Our clients, as well as all rice farmers in this country, have struggled mightily with the crash of the world rice markets due to Bayer's contamination. I am so proud of them and could not be happier for these farming families and businesses.”
Bayer agreed to the settlement during the summer of 2011, stipulating that a threshold of 85% of the rice acreage involved in the suit be certified. According to Scott Powell, most of the farmers involved in the settlement should see payments in the first week of January.
The problem began in August, 2006 when The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that amounts of genetically altered rice had made its way into the U.S. rice supply. In reaction to this announcement, the 27-country European Union (EU)market essentially closed because of a requirement that U.S. rice be tested and certified to be 100 percent free of genetically modified rice.
December 8, 2011 - The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of a dozen Arkansas rice farmers today, upholding a $48 million jury verdict against German agricultural powerhouse Bayer CropScience.
"It is a wonderful victory for our clients who have struggled mightily over the loss of the world rice markets and continue to struggle," states Scott Powell, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. Powell also believes this a great victory for small businesses in Arkansas.
The suit was filed on behalf of Arkansas rice farmers after an experimental rice strain developed by Bayer called Liberty Link was allowed to make its way into the stream of commercially marketed rice. Liberty Link was developed to withstand a popular herbicide that kills weeds in the fields. The suit claimed that rice prices fell after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in August 2006 that trace amounts of Liberty Link rice were found in U.S. long-grain rice stocks. The verdict was the largest verdict reached regarding contamination by Bayer's genetically modified Liberty Link rice.Read the Arkansas Supreme Court opinions: Schafer Concur | Schafer Opinion
Scott Powell and Bruce McKee presented oral arguments before the Arkansas Supreme Court on October 27, 2011 relating to a $48 million judgment against Bayer Cropscience. Twelve Arkansas rice farmers were awarded $42 million in punitive damages and $6 million in compensatory damages due to the contamination of their rice crops by genetically modified rice produced by Bayer CropScience.
The video of the oral arguments is available at this link: Scroll to the bottom of the page to Archived Supreme Court Oral Arguments and click on: Bayer Cropscience v. Randy Schafer
A historic settlement has been achieved in a lawsuit against Bayer Cropscience on behalf of more than 2,500 rice farmers, the majority of whom, harvest American Long Grain rice in Arkansas.
The $750 million settlement was announced on July 1, 2011 [view Settlement Agreement], by Bayer Cropscience. The lawsuits that culminated in the settlement were filed as a result of the corruption of farmers’ crops by a genetically engineered strain of rice produced by the Bayer Cropscience.
“Our clients and other rice farmers were devastated by the loss of markets around the world,” states Scott Powell, lead counsel with Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton. “The markets are still depressed due to the contamination. As a consequence the American rice farmers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. This settlement is crucial to the survivability of many rice growing farms and families in this country.”
Q: Why was a successful settlement in the Bayer Cropscience case so crucial to the rice farmers and their families?
A: Our clients and other rice farmers were devastated by the loss of markets around the world. The markets are still depressed due to the contamination. As a consequence, the US rice farmers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. This settlement is crucial to the survivability of many rice growing farms and families in this country.
Q: What does this settlement mean to you from a personal and professional standpoint?
A: It was a tremendous privilege and honor to represent people who make up the backbone of America. To do something positive for them in the face of the devastation they endured humbles me tremendously and makes me proud to be a lawyer.
Q: Will this case serve as a precedent with regard to the do's and don'ts of agricultural research and crop science, especially as relates to genetically altered plant material?
A: There is no question that the biotech industry watched this case very closely. There are rules and regulations that must be complied with. This case serves as a reminder to all those multinational corporations who choose to perform experiments in our county that they must follow the rules and CANNOT take shortcuts.