LibertyLink Rice

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LibertyLink Rice (also known as Phosphinothricin Tolerant Rice or Glufosinate Tolerant Rice) is a genetically modified organism made by Bayer CropScience that has had its DNA modified to withstand the herbicide Glufosinate (also known as Phosphinothricin and sold under the brand names Basta, Ignite, and Liberty). LibertyLink rice was the subject of a scandal in 2006 when a variety that had not yet been approved for human consumption was found in commercial shipments of long grain rice in the U.S.


1999: Deregulation of LLRICE06 and LLRICE62

Liberty Link Rice was first created by AgrEvo, a company that later became Aventis CropScience following a 1999 merger. On November 25, 1998, AgrEvo petitioned the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to deregulate two varieties of LibertyLink Rice, LLRICE06 and LLRICE62. On January 26, 1999, APHIS published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the AgrEvo petition was available for public review and soliciting public comments, due on or before March 29, 1999. The USDA conducted an environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and issued a "finding of no significant impact" (FONSI). MON 87701 was deregulated on April 5, 1999.

At the time of deregulation, APHIS wrote in the Federal Register:

"Rice transformation events LLRICE06 and LLRICE62 have been genetically engineered to contain a bar gene derived from Streptomyces hygroscopicus strain HP632. The bar gene encodes the enzyme phosphinothricin-N-acetyltransferase (PAT), which confers tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate. Expression of the bar gene is controlled by the 35S promoter and terminator sequences from the plant pathogen cauliflower mosaic virus. The direct gene transfer method was used to transfer added genes into the parental rice varieties (M202) (LLRICE06) and Bengal (LLRICE62)."[1]

LibertyLink Rice Abandonment

When Aventis encountered controversy due to another product, StarLink Corn, which was not approved for human consumption but was found in food sold in grocery stores, it decided to sell off its U.S. biotech unit.[2] Aventis sold its crop science unit to Bayer. Bayer decided not to bring LibertyLink rice to market "largely because rice grown in the U.S. is exported to Europe and other places that don't want genetically modified foods."[2]

2006 Riceland Foods Incident

In January 2006, "small amounts of genetically engineered rice turned up in a shipment that was tested... by a French customer of Riceland Foods, a big rice mill based in Stuttgart, Ark. Because no transgenic rice is grown commercially in the U.S., the people at Riceland were stunned. At first they figured that the test was a mistake or that tiny bits of genetically modified corn or soybeans had somehow gotten mixed up with rice during shipping."[2]

Shockingly, test showed that the rice contained "a strain of Liberty Link that had not been approved for human consumption" and that "trace amounts of the Liberty Link had mysteriously made their way into the commercial rice supply in all five of the Southern states where long-grain rice is grown: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri."[2] By the time the contamination was discovered, it was already widespread, and consumers had already consumed quite a bit of the not-approved-for-human-consumption rice.

The USDA dealt with the issue by retroactively approving the rice, LL601, saying that the genes are similar to genes that have also been inserted into corn and canola without any obvious problems resulting.[2] On July 31, 2006, Bayer CropScience "notified APHIS that trace levels of LLRICE601 were detected in long grain commercial rice. Subsequently, BayerCropScience supplied APHIS and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with information about the molecular characterization and agronomic performance of LLRICE601."[3] Bayer CropScience submitted a petition to APHIS requesting an extension of its previous deregulation for Liberty Link Rice to the newer variety, LLRICE601, on August 18, 2006. APHIS performed an environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and concluded a "finding of no significant impact" (FONSI). LLRICE601 was deregulated in the U.S. in November 24, 2006.

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Federal Register, Vol. 64, No. 80, April 27, 1999.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Marc Gunther, "Attack of the mutant rice," CNN, July 7, 2007, Accessed September 14, 2011.
  3. Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 232, December 4, 2006.

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