April 15, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Drug and chemical giant Bayer AG has admitted that there is no way to stop the uncontrolled spread of its genetically modified crops.
“Even the best practices can’t guarantee perfection,” said Mark Ferguson, the company’s defense lawyer in a recent trial.
Two Missouri farmers sued Bayer for contaminating their crop with modified genes from an experimental strain of rice engineered to be resistant to the company’s Liberty-brand herbicide. The contamination occurred in 2006, during an open field test of the new rice, which was not approved for human consumption. According to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Don Downing, genetic material from the unapproved rice contaminated more than 30 percent of all rice cropland in the United States.
“Bayer was supposed to be careful,” Downing said. “Bayer was not careful and that rice did escape into our commercial rice supplies.”
The plaintiffs alleged that in addition to contaminating their fields, Bayer further harmed them financially by undermining their export market. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the widespread rice contamination, important export markets were closed to U.S. producers. A report from Greenpeace International estimates the financial damage of the contamination at between $741 million and $1.3 billion.
Bayer claimed that there was no possible way it could have prevented the contamination, insisting that it followed not only the law but also the best industry practices. The jury disagreed, finding Bayer guilty of carelessness in handling the genetically modified crops. The company was ordered to pay farmers Kenneth Bell and Johnny Hunter $2 million.
“This is a huge victory, not only for Kenny and me, but for every farmer in America who was harmed by Bayer’s LibertyLink rice contamination,” Hunter said.
According to Hunter, the company got “the wake-up call they deserved.”
Bayer is still being sued by more than 1,000 other farmers from Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
March 18, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: Jared A. Favole
The Environmental Protection Agency is requiring beefed up labeling for flea and tick products used on dogs and cats amid an increasing number of reports showing that pets given the pesticides may suffer from seizures and die.
The EPA wants companies to make instructions on the products’ labels more clear so people don’t give their pets too much of the pesticides or give doses intended for cats to dogs and vice versa.
The announcement affects most flea-and-tick products that are applied directly to a pets’ skin. These products are widely used each year to prevent pets from getting fleas and ticks, which can carry disease. Companies including Merck & Co., Bayer AG and Pfizer Inc. make these products. They are sold under names such as Frontline Top Spot for Dogs, Promeris Canine Flea Control and Enforcer Flea Drops for Cats.
The news comes as the EPA said the number of reports of pets suffering from these products continues to rise. In 2008, the EPA received 44,000 reports of adverse events from these products, a 53% increase from the prior year.
The EPA began investigating this issue over a year ago and the industry at the time said people weren’t using the products properly. Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, said the labels are to blame, not consumers. “I don’t know how you would blame the victim in this case when the label isn’t clear,” he said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Mr. Owens said in some instance, people didn’t know they need to regulate the dose based on their pet’s weight. He said the EPA will require more precise dosing on the product labels.
Companies that don’t voluntarily update the labels will be forced to, Mr. Owens said.
Merial Ltd., a joint venture between Merck and Sanofi-Aventis SA, said the number of adverse events related to its popular Frontline products have remained “consistently low since the product’s introduction in 1996.”
The company said it would work with all pet owners to ensure they use the products properly.