The USA Rice Federation reports a significant victory for the U.S. rice industry, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it has reinstated a no-GM letterhead statement for use by rice exporters and others in the industry.
The one-sentence statement by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) reads: "There are no transgenic rice varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time," and it signals the end of a thorough and painstaking industry campaign that began eight years ago in response to the LibertyLink® contamination.
"GIPSA's decision to reinstate the assurance is a testament to years of hard work and cooperation among all segments of the U.S. rice industry to remove the LibertyLink trait from the U.S. rice supply and thereby meet consumer demands and regulatory requirements in many international markets," said Al Montna, a California rice producer and former chairman of the USA Rice Federation who led the industry's response to the LibertyLink presence.
LLRice, as the contamination became known, caused substantial disruptions in key international markets and consumer concern. In response, the U.S. industry adopted voluntary guidelines - called the Seed Plan for short - to remove LLRice from the rice seed supply beginning in 2007.
"All segments of the rice industry coming together to reestablish a marketable supply of U.S. rice is a tremendous achievement, and U.S. producers, millers, marketers, and state seed officials should be proud," said John Owen, a Rayville, Louisiana rice producer and chairman of the USA Rice Producers' Group.
"While we can't turn away from new technologies, one of the lessons of the LiberyLink contamination is that we must continue to insist that there be consumer acceptance and widespread global regulatory approval before new technologies are introduced into the marketplace," said Betsy Ward, President and CEO of USA Rice.
Implementation of the Seed Plan also occurred alongside substantial litigation in state and federal courts, culminating in a reported $750-million settlement by the developer of LibertyLink with U.S. long-grain producers. In addition to leading the aggressive industry response, USA Rice provided key technical support and testimony to rice growers during court activities.