Rice Farming

 - USA Rice Federation Update -

USA Rice’s persistence pays off
in 2006 GE rice issue

The voluntary Seed Plan continues to effectively reduce the presence of
Liberty Link rice, and while we can justly say that Liberty Link traits have
been virtually eliminated, USA Rice continues to be forward looking
and encourages all stakeholders to adhere to provisions of the
Seed Plan this year.

By Jamie Warshaw
Chairman
USA Rice Federation

When my predecessor, Chairman Al Montna, took office on Aug. 1, 2006, we were 17 days away from the announcement of an unexpected event as serious as any the U.S. rice industry has ever faced – the discovery of trace elements of genetically engineered (GE) Liberty Link rice in commercial long-grain samples.

The efforts of USA Rice Federation leadership in the crisis has just two years later resulted in a long-grain commercial rice crop that is virtually free of GE traits. Because of the hard work of rice farmers, millers, merchants, marketers, seed companies, allied businesses and state plant boards, today we can take heart in the good news that recently completed testing of the 2008 crop demonstrates that 99.9 percent of the samples contained no Liberty Link (LLRICE601) traits.

That’s a significant improvement from 2007, when 99.5 percent of the long-grain crop test samples showed no Liberty Link presence. These test results cover the five Mid-South rice-producing states and demonstrate the continuing success in restoring the marketability and competitiveness of U.S. rice at home and in key foreign markets.

Immediate proactive response protects industry
From the day the crisis was announced, the USA Rice Federation was the only organization in the rice industry to fully devote its resources to protecting the rice industry from damage and restoring consumer and trade confidence in the U.S. rice crop.

While some sought accommodating and near-term solutions, USA Rice consistently:
• Communicated the threat of the unintended release of the Liberty Link traits
• Included all segments of the industry in finding a real solution
• Advocated with the administration, Congress and the states
• Educated farmers/marketers about legal and non-legal issues
• Led the voluntary implementation of the industry’s Seed Plan, which continues to restore the competitiveness and marketability of U.S. rice at home and abroad
• Worked diligently with foreign trade and government officials to re-open markets.

USA Rice efforts yield results
USA Rice Federation work has yielded significant successes. Its leadership quickly resulted in the creation of a Biotechnology Task Force and development and adoption of the industry’s voluntary Seed Plan. That plan continues to effectively reduce the presence of Liberty Link rice, and while we can justly say that Liberty Link traits have been virtually eliminated, we continue to be forward looking and encourage all stakeholders to adhere to provisions of the Seed Plan this year. That is critical to the competitiveness and marketability of U.S. rice at home and abroad.

In late 2006, nearly one-half of all U.S. rice exports were negatively impacted by the Liberty Link crisis, and markets in the EU and Russia were closed. Those markets have since been re-opened, and USA Rice continues to work with foreign regulators to ensure uninterrupted access for U.S. rice. The ongoing success of the Seed Plan and the credibility and leadership of the USA Rice Federation were critical to re-opening all markets for U.S. rice.

More USA Rice action
Among other significant work, USA Rice urged USDA/APHIS to quickly implement the “Lessons Learned” about the management of agriculture biotechnology from the results of the investigation into the release of LLRICE601.

USA Rice consistently included all segments of the industry in finding a real solution. USA Rice also advocated with the Bush administration, Congress and individual states on behalf of all U.S. rice farmers. That advocacy included working with foreign trade and government officials here and overseas to re-open markets closed to U.S. rice and also included efforts to keep Mexico, Canada and Asia open to U.S. rice.
Some in the industry early on said eliminating GE rice traits couldn’t be done. Fortunately, the facts proved otherwise and once threatened U.S. export markets are now open.

Nothing speaks more powerfully to the importance of unity in our industry than what we have accomplished to restore confidence in U.S. rice. My thanks to all of you.

For more about USA rice programs, visit www.usarice.com.