Coming Soon: Bayer’s Newest Brand of Genetically Modified Rice

Bayer has teamed up with BASF to produce genetically
modified (GM) rice seeds that have a 10 percent yield increase compared to
conventional crops. That’s good news for the 3.4 billion people who eat
at least one meal containing rice each day. But there could be consequences.

This isn’t Bayer’s first foray into genetically modified rice. In 2006, the company conducted experimental field trials of Liberty Link Rice (LL061), a GM rice strain. Then LL061 somehow found its way into the world’s rice supply, contaminating conventional crops before the strain was even approved for human consumption. Bayer says it was unable to control the spread of the rice into other fields. The debacle cost the rice industry $1.2 billion.

Bayer has a new strain already approved for commercial use in the U.S., dubbed LL62. This new strain is resistant to glufosinate, a Bayer-produced pesticide that is classified as being toxic for reproduction and liable to cause birth defects. Glufosinate residue has been shown to remain on rice once it ends up in the hands of consumers–which means that LL62 is making it easier for the planet’s population to be exposed to the toxic pesticide.

So how will Bayer’s new rice strain boost yields? The company hasn’t revealed details, and the product won’t be on the market until 2020, according to PhysOrg. But we do know one thing: a new strain of GM rice puts more of the world’s most important food crop in the hands of Bayer.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.