KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 23 (Reuters) – Germany’s Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) is battling to keep thousands of U.S. rice farmers from becoming part of a massive class-action lawsuit over the contamination of commercial rice supplies by a Bayer biotech rice not approved for human consumption.
In hearings this week in federal court in St. Louis, Missouri, lawyers representing rice farmers said about 7,000 long-grain producers in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas should be allowed to seek unspecified damages against Bayer for contamination that was uncovered in August 2006.
Farmers suffered extensive losses, both from a plunge in rice prices, and in a drop in export business as Japan and the European Union moved to restrict U.S. rice from crossing their borders.
Many farmers also were not able to plant a crop the following year because of seed shortages tied to the contamination, and had to undertake costly clean-up efforts, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Bayer is fighting the class-action move, and both sides are now awaiting a ruling from U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry .