Asked for comment on the early-December verdict in a case brought by two Missouri rice farmers, Bayer CropScience provided a statement to Delta Farm Press.

The farmers were the first of five “bellwether” cases — related to GM traits found in several rice varieties in 2006 — that will be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri over the next few months.

The statement reads: Bayer CropScience “is pleased with the decision that punitive damages against the company are not warranted in the biotech rice trial. The company believes claims to the contrary have no basis.

“Bayer CropScience is disappointed in the previous award of compensatory damages in the trial and will be studying that decision in detail and considering its options.

“‘At this time, there are additional cases scheduled for trial in the near future, which will be different from these initial cases both in plaintiffs’ situations and claims,’” said Bruce Mackintosh, general counsel for Bayer CropScience LP. “‘We are presently preparing for those trials.’

“This first trial in the multi-district litigation proceedings on the biotech rice matter began on Nov. 2 in U.S. District Court in St. Louis. In this litigation rice farmers in the South are alleging economic loss stemming from traces of Bayer CropScience pre-commercial biotech rice in the 2005 long-grain rice harvest.

“Following the detection in 2006 of the traces of the biotech rice in shipments of commercial long-grain rice harvested in the South, some countries, primarily in Europe, imposed restrictions on U.S. long-grain rice imports.

“Most long-grain rice grown in the United States is consumed outside of Europe and thus the marketing of that portion of the crop remained unaffected by the European regulatory system.

“The traces of biotech rice posed no food safety issues. The protein involved, which makes the rice tolerant to a herbicide, has been affirmed safe for various crops by regulators in a number of countries, including Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and USDA have determined Bayer CropScience biotech rice to be safe for human consumption; however, Bayer CropScience has not yet commercialized biotech rice.

“An investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture was not able to determine how the biotech traces entered the long-grain rice supply.

“Bayer CropScience remains committed to the U.S. rice industry and continues to develop and provide new technologies in support of rice growers.”