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In the first bellwether trial for lawsuits over Syngenta corn seed, a jury awarded almost $218 million to farmers for damages caused by the sale of a genetically modified product, known as Viptera, which resulted in a massive drop in the value of U.S. corn several years ago.
The case was a class action, representing 7,000 farmers from Kansas who will share the award, after a federal jury determined that Syngenta caused significant financial damages by marketing the GMO corn seed before it was approved for import by China, which comprises a large portion of the corn market.
The trial is the first for about 60,000 Syngenta corn seed lawsuits filed by farmers and agri-businesses nationwide, many of whom did not grow Viptera, but had their corn rejected by China because of cross-pollination concerns.
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 maintain that they have 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.
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.
Syngenta has indicated it plans to appeal this first verdict, but faces a second bellwether trial that is slated to begin next month in Minnesota.