To the editor:
After seeing recent reports of proposed research into genetically modified rice in Southeast Missouri, I am concerned that the economic best interests of rice producers and rural communities are not being taken into account. At a time when Asian and European consumers regularly protest and boycott genetically produced crops, it makes little sense to risk a boycott of Missouri or U.S. rice when the same research could be conducted in other areas.
Most Bootheel farmers support genetically modified crops. But these crops weren't introduced into production with the realistic threat of protests and boycotts. A farmer has to sell his crop to stay in business. While he may support scientific research, the science he is primarily concerned with is economics. I am concerned that the current discussion over pharmaceutical rice seems to have excluded many of the people who stand to be affected by this research. The appearance is that rice producers, rice organizations and major customers either aren't being consulted or are having their concerns dismissed.
Other rice producing states and both state and national rice organizations have objected to this research and have actively sought to protect producers from boycotts or contamination from trial crops.
I support research into genetically modified crops. But this research needs to take place far away from active rice farms and be conducted in such a way as to minimize economic risks for farmers and Bootheel communities.
BARRY B. BEAN, Bean & Bean Cotton Co., Peach Orchard, Mo.