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[SANET-MG] LibertyLink 601 found in LSU AgCenter foundation seed rice
Has the USDA rice germ plasm laboratory in Arkansas looked at the transgene pollution problem?
LibertyLink 601 found in LSU AgCenter foundation seed rice
Aug 31, 2006 5:17 PM
By Bruce Schultz
Independent lab tests have confirmed a sample of 2003 foundation seed rice
of the variety Cheniere grown by the LSU AgCenter contained a trace amount of
genetic material from LL601 — a LibertyLink genetically modified rice.
The test results received Wednesday (Aug. 30), however, indicated Cheniere
foundation seed grown in 2005 appeared to be free of Liberty Link 601.
Those tests, validated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain
Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, also indicated lots from 13 other
varieties currently in the LSU AgCenter’s foundation seed program also
appeared to be free of LL601. The other varieties involved in the initial testing
included Cocodrie, Cypress, Trenasse, Pirogue, Bengal, Jupiter, Clearfield
131 and Clearfield 161.
“We are conducting a thorough inquiry to determine how this happened,” said
David Boethel, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for research. “We also are
cooperating closely with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in their investigation of the
The LSU AgCenter submitted samples to a testing lab soon after it was
reported on Aug. 18 that trace amounts of LL601 were detected in samples of rice
taken from Riceland Foods.
The long-grain rice from Riceland came from the 2005 crop held in storage
facilities in Arkansas and Missouri, according to the USDA, but the agency said
it didn’t know where the rice was grown.
LibertyLink lines of rice were developed by Bayer CropScience — to allow the
Liberty herbicide to be sprayed on weeds without killing the rice plants.
The USDA and the Food and Drug Administration have approved two LibertyLink
lines similar to LL601, although those are not in commercial production, and
federal authorities have concluded that LibertyLink rice poses no threat to food
safety, human health or the environment.
Field research on LibertyLink was conducted in collaboration with Bayer
CropScience at the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station near Crowley, La., from
1999 through 2001.
At the time, LibertyLink technology was in the developmental stages. The
research was focused on addressing control of a perennial problem for farmers
known as red rice, which is the major weed problem facing rice producers in the
southern United States.
“Weed control is one of our biggest problems, and we saw LibertyLink as one
of several solutions,” said Ernest Girouard, a rice grower from Kaplan, La.,
who also is chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board. “Weeds can make a
significant impact on yields and can make the difference between profitability
“Similar weed control technologies have had a significant positive impact on
production of other crops.”
According to Steve Linscombe, a rice breeder who also serves as director of
the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, standards set by the USDA were
followed strictly in the research with LL601, and the field plots of LibertyLink
rice were isolated from other rice plants.
“In fact, we made sure the distance between the LibertyLink plots and other
conventional rice plots was further apart than what the research protocols
required,” Linscombe said. “When there was a minimum requirement, we exceeded
Further safeguards in the foundation seed protocols may also be what
accounted for finding LL601 material in just one of the rice lots tested this month.
“The test results we received this week demonstrated that LL601 was found in
the 2003 sample of Cheniere seed but not in 2005 seed,” Linscombe said. “
That is probably a result of the rigorous screening and selection employed in
our foundation seed program.
“It may mean it has been eliminated from the variety, but further tests are
needed, including those being conducted by APHIS.”
Commercial production of genetically modified crops has become common. The
USDA estimates that more than 60 percent of corn, 83 percent of cotton and
almost 89 percent of soybeans grown in the United States this year were
genetically modified for various traits, including herbicide tolerance and insect
“The LSU AgCenter’s foundation seed program has been extremely important to
the U.S. rice industry. Over the years, the LSU AgCenter rice variety
development program has released varieties that are among the most widely planted
throughout the southern U.S. rice-growing area,” Boethel said.
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