Agrochemicals giant Syngenta is facing a growing number of lawsuits challenging its release of a genetically modified corn seed that China had not approved for import, with losses to farmers estimated to be at least $1 billion.
More than 50 lawsuits have been filed in 11 major corn-growing states, including Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, with hundreds more being prepared. Syngenta has a seed corn processing plant in Phillips, Nebraska.
A federal court panel that manages complex lawsuits involving large numbers of plaintiffs has scheduled a Dec. 4 hearing in Charleston, South Carolina, to decide where to consolidate the cases. It’s likely to be in Iowa or Illinois, according to Rick Paul, an attorney representing 13 farmers who filed suit in federal court in Iowa.
The lawsuits seek to compensate farmers for the alleged lost market and additional money to punish Syngenta.
The legal dispute centers around Syngenta’s sale of a hybrid corn seed called Agrisure Viptera, which was genetically altered to contain a protein that kills corn-eating bugs such as earworms and cutworms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved it in 2010, and Syngenta first sold it to farmers in 2011.
It has been industry practice for biotech seed developers to wait until major trade partners have approved new products before selling it widely, Paul said. But in this case, China, which refuses to buy genetically modified crops it hasn’t tested, had not approved Viptera.
China has rejected more than 130 million bushels as of late October, the lawsuits say.
Damages have been estimated to exceed $1 billion for the last nine months of the marketing year ending Aug. 31, according to the National Grain and Feed Association.
Exports of U.S. corn are down 85 percent this year compared with 2013, and that has driven down corn prices, according to 13 suits filed in federal court in Des Moines, Iowa. Lawyers representing farmers must prove the extent to which the Viptera trait contributed to falling corn prices.
A Syngenta spokesman said the right of U.S. farmers to use the newest technology to improve profits should not be dependent on the approval of other countries. He said the company has been in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements for the new seeds.
(Source – http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/syngenta-faces-dozens-of-lawsuits-over-gmo-seed-corn)