The Case of the Unwanted GM Rice

This story is from 2007, but it’s new to me and I’m guessing it will be new to many of you. And it’s a great read.

By Marc Gunther, writing for Fortune: Attack of the mutant rice

America’s rice farmers didn’t want to grow a genetically engineered crop. Their customers in Europe did not want to buy it. So how did it end up in our food? Fortune’s Marc Gunther reports

—–

Back in the spring of 2001, a 64-year-old Texas rice farmer named Jacko Garrett watched a fleet of 18-wheelers haul away truckloads of rice that he had grown with great care. “It just bothers me so bad,” Garrett said. “I’m sitting here trying to find food to feed people, and I’ve got to bury five million pounds of rice.” No one likes to waste food, but for Garrett, who runs a charity that collects rice for the needy, the pain was especially acute.

Garrett’s rice was genetically modified, part of an experiment that was brought to an abrupt halt by its sponsor, a North Carolina-based biotechnology company called Aventis Crop Science. The company had contracted with a handful of farmers to grow the rice, which was known as Liberty Link because its genes had been altered to resist a weed killer called Liberty, also made by Aventis.

But by 2001, Aventis Crop Science was living a biotech nightmare….

This story is a great example of what, as a Poli-Sci undergrad many years ago, i was taught was Rule #1 of environmental policy: “everything leaks.”

My only quibble with Gunther’s excellent story is that it may leave some readers with the impression that there was an actual danger to consumers, here. No one, anywhere, has ever been harmed by GM food. The events chronicled here are bad for various reasons, none of them having directly to do with risk to human health.

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About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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