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Following a massive drop in corn value throughout the United States several years ago, due to sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed known as Viptera, Syngenta has agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of U.S. farmers and others in the agricultural industry.
The Syngenta corn seed settlement was announced on September 26, in the midst of a trial for a class action lawsuit in Minnesota, according to Bloomberg News. The settlement agreement will reportedly resolve claims brought on behalf of more than 100,000 farmers.
The trial was the second of about 60,000 lawsuits filed by nationwide against Syngenta, many of whom did not even purchase or plant Viptera seeds, but had their corn rejected by China because of cross-pollination with the genetically modified seed. Many of the cases involved dozens, or even hundreds of farmers.
Following a bellwether trial in June, which was designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation, about 7,000 farmers from Kansas were awarded almost $218 million. The global settlement was reached while appeals following that verdict were still pending.
While China eventually approved the genetic trait produced by Syngenta’s Agisure Viptera and Agisure Duracade corn seeds, also known as MIR162, farmers and agricultural companies maintained that they suffered significant economic harm due to drops in corn prices when China rejected any imports with traces of MIR162, which widely contaminated the entire U.S. corn supply.
Farmers and others in the industry estimate that $5 billion in damages have been caused by the GMO corn seed, since corn products grown at many different farms are commonly co-mingling, and Syngenta also recommended that Agisure Viptera and Duracade seed be grown next to other corn, causing cross-pollination.
In December 2014, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided to centalize all Syngenta GMO corn lawsuits before Judge Lungstrum for pretrial proceedings in the District of Kansas.
The settlement agreement means that Syngenta will avoid potentially thousands of trials that would have otherwise been remanded back to their original courts if the MDL had ended without any resolution to the litigation.