More than 1,300 Syngenta Farmer Claims Being Pursued Over Genetically Modified Corn Seed

Syngenta now faces more than 1,300 claims from corn farmers who say the company caused wide-spread economic damage to their businesses and the U.S. agricultural market by selling them genetically modified corn seeds that were not approved for export to China. 

While China recently approved the genetic trait produced by Syngenta’s Agisure Viptera and Agisure Duracade corn seeds, also known as MIR162, farmers and agricultural companies maintain that they have suffered significant economic harm over the past year, due to drops in corn prices when China rejected any imports with traces of MIR162, which widely contaminated the entire U.S. corn supply.

As a result of the co-mingling of corn from many different farmers throughout the country, as well as cross-pollination caused by Syngenta’s recommendation that Agisure Viptera and Duracade seed be grown next to other corn, farmers and others in the industry may suffer an estimated $1 billion in damages, according to allegations raised in the growing number of Syngenta corn seed lawsuits and class action claims.

Syngenta’s faces claims for deciding to release and market the genetically modified corn seed without first obtaining approval for the corn to be exported to China, which is one of the largest markets for U.S. corn.

Four Years Before Viptera Was Approved In China

Syngenta first allegedly asked China for approval of Viptera corn seed back in 2010, according to allegations raised in lawsuits, but began selling the corn to farmers and other agribusiness companies, claiming approval was imminent. However, China did not approve the trait until late last year, blocking all imports of corn with traces of MIR162 trait since at least November 2013.

Even farmers who did not purchase or use Syngenta corn seed may have claims against the company for damages associated with bans on shipments containing their corn, which were contaminated with the trait.

“[A]lthough it knew it lacked approval from Chinese authorities, Syngenta has misinformed farmers, grain elevators, grain exporters, and the general public into believing that regulatory approval of MIR162 corn from China was imminent and that the lack of Chinese approval would not impact the corn market prices,” according a complaint filed earlier this month by one Texas farmer. “Syngenta’s decision to bring Viptera to the market crippled the 2013.14 corn export market to China and caused damage to the Plaintiff. Syngenta knew, or should have known, that releasing Viptera would lead to the contamination of U.S. corn shipments and prevent U.S. corn from being sold to export markets such as China, which had not granted regulatory approval to MIR162.”

On December 22, Syngenta announced that China had finally approved MIR162 for shipping to that market, but by then many farmers claim to have already suffered severe economic damage due to the price drops that resulted from an approval delay which they say Syngenta led them to believe was not going to occur.

Last month, all Syngenta GM corn lawsuits were centralized before U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum for pretrial proceedings in the District of Kansas. Following the coordinated pretrial proceedings, if Syngenta corn seed settlements are not reached to resolve the litigation, individual cases may be remanded back to the U.S. District Courts where they were originally filed for separate trials across the country.

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