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Farmers see altered rice as a threat

Exports could be hurt if a genetically modified variety contaminates state crop, group warns.

February 21, 2007|From the Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — A group representing more than 200 Sacramento Valley rice farmers is warning that any outdoor planting of genetically modified rice could jeopardize the state's $400-million rice industry.

The group, the Rice Producers of California, released a report Tuesday that said exports to Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Turkey and other countries could be put at risk if so-called transgenic rice contaminated the state's crops.

Transgenic rice has not been planted by commercial farmers in the United States but has been planted in experimental plots. Last summer, traces of a genetically modified strain contaminated commercial long-grain rice harvests in several Southern states.

After that incident, futures prices for long-grain rice plunged as European importers reacted by demanding that each shipment be tested.

California rice farmers, who do not grow the long-grain variety, were not affected. But it alarmed Sacramento Valley farmers, who export 40% of their crop.

Placer County rice farmer Nick Greco said he believed any outdoor testing was unacceptable.

"We have customers that want a very specific product," he said.

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