The Thai government has hired two US lawyers to represent the country in a lawsuit aimed at preventing American rice breeder Chris Deren from patenting a new rice variety developed using genetic material from Thai jasmine rice. As the world's top rice-exporter, producing about 3m tonnes of jasmine rice and 24m tonnes of rice in total every year, many Thai officials fear that Deren will attempt to patent the jasmine-rice name when his project is completed. Deputy commerce minister Suvarn Valaisathien told The Nation newspaper yesterday: "We think it is better to bar him from patenting the new rice variety than seek compensation." Officials from the US are maintaining that the American rice breeders working with Deren have not broken any Thai law in obtaining Thai seeds for their project. The Thai government insists however that Deren stole the seeds.