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Bayer’s $750 Million Verdict Makes Us Question Food Safety

According to a recent article published by MSNBC, five years after Bayer CropScience – a corporation – inadvertently introduced a strain of genetically modified long-grain rice into the U.S. market, Bayer has admitted fault and agreed to move forward with a $750 million settlement stemming from the mistake.

Bayer CropScience is a division of Bayer, a German chemical and pharmaceutical conglomerate, otherwise most well-known for its original brand of aspirin. Bayer CropScience is in the business of genetic modification of foods for the purposes of crop protection and nonagricultural pest control. CropScience is one of the world’s leading food science companies in its field, and is one of the premier innovators in the arena of genetic engineering of food.

However, in 2006, the United States Department of Agriculture found that Bayer CropScience’s brand of LibertyLink genetically modified rice had contaminated the country’s rice supply. As a result, the European Union banned imports of U.S. rice, and the market for rice plummeted. Personal injury lawsuits were brought on behalf of rice farmers who lost significant income from the economic backlash from Bayer’s mistake.

Genetically modified foods are foods that are produced after changes have been made to their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. The alterations are intended to produce better, plusher crops that are able to resist strains of vegetal diseases. Genetically modified foods were first marketed to consumers in 1996. To this day, only modified plant-based goods – such as soybeans, corn, canola, and rice – have been sold to the public; although altered animal products have also been developed, they are not currently on the market.

Though no injuries in humans have yet been reported due to consuming genetically modified foods, the E.U.’s refusal to accept them – which triggered the economic disaster for rice farmers that triggered this particular settlement – causes us to question the potential risks involved with modified foods.

No studies have yet concretely determined whether engineered crops have caused any harm to the public. On the other hand, however, a number of consumer rights groups claim that the long-term health risks posed by genetically altered foods wouldn’t yet show up in tests since the public has only been eating these products since 1996; long-term effects wouldn’t yet have had the opportunity to surface.

In fact, according to MSNBC, federal regulators had not yet approved LibertyLink rice (the rice in dispute) for human consumption, at the time when trace amounts were found mixed with conventional rice seed in storage bins. The European Union’s fear that the rice was unsafe, along with the notion that genetically altered rice was somehow impure, quashed sales in major markets. Said MSNBC, the mistake left growers with huge losses, since prices fell.

A Chicago personal injury attorney can attest that when corporations – especially those in the business of manufacturing food products – place merchandise on the market, they have the duty of ensuring that their products are safe. When a diseased, defective, or dangerous product is released to the public and causes harm to consumers, the corporation responsible for manufacturing the food may be held legally liable for the damages caused by the injury.

In the years to come, we will need to keep a careful watch on consumers of genetically modified foods; if consumers are harmed because the products were inherently dangerous, Illinois personal injury lawsuits may arise.