The world’s largest crop chemicals company–Switzerland-based Syngenta–is facing a wave of lawsuits arising out of the sale and marketing of a genetically modified (GMO) first generation corn seed called Agrisure Viptera with a corn trait known as MIR162. The claimants are a variety of individuals and businesses seeking damages and other relief in 20 states.
Viptera was genetically altered to contain a protein (MIR162) that kills corn-eating bugs. It was approved by the USDA in 2010 and Syngenta began selling it to U.S. farmers in 2011. China refuses to buy genetically modified crops it hasn’t tested and had not approved Viptera when Syngenta began selling it. In April 2012, Syngenta’s CEO released a statement suggesting import approval from China was imminent. The import approval, however, was not granted until approximately 20 months later in December 2014. In the interim, in November 2013, China began rejecting U.S. corn shipments on account of genetic modifications in varieties found in the shipments that had yet to be approved by China.
The lawsuits say that China rejected more than 131 million bushels of corn during the time the corn was not approved for import. As a result, corn prices decreased. Losses to the corn industry are estimated at between $1 billion and $3 billion. A federal lawsuit filed in Iowa alleges that “Knowing that contamination of Viptera corn with the rest of the U.S. Corn supply was inevitable, Syngenta nevertheless gambled U.S. farmers’ livelihood on approval of Viptera by the major corn-importing countries.”
Beyond individual farmers, lessors of farmland and incorporated farms, agribusiness conglomerates such as Cargill and ADM, which export grain, have also sued Syngenta, claiming losses of more than $90 million. Cargill claims in its lawsuit that Syngenta’s selling of Viptera with the MIR162 corn trait before obtaining import approval from major markets was “inconsistent with industry standards and the conduct of other biotechnology companies.”
Syngenta has annual revenues of about $15 billion. Syngenta’s agricultural seed division is based in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Although Syngenta’s import approval in China was granted in December 2014, by April 2014 China was no longer the only country rejecting U.S. corn due to the unapproved GMO trait. Globally U.S. corn rejection reached 3.3 million metric tons and the U.S. corn expert problem had racked up billions of dollars in financial loss for U.S. farmers.
Syngenta was previously sued by the City of Evansville, Indiana and 1085 other plaintiffs for reimbursement of the costs associated with removing the Syngenta weedkiller, Atrazine, from the City’s tapwater. Evansville recovered $374,095 in the class action. Now the farming industry in Evansville and southwestern Indiana counties such as Dubois, Gibson, Posey, Warrick and Vanderburgh may have been damaged as a result of Syngenta’s acts and omissions with regard to the Agrisure Viptera MIR162 corn trait.
Legal claims such as those being brought against Syngenta are time-sensitive. The failure to take action to protect legal rights can result in the forfeiture of that right. If you or persons you know may have been suffered damages as a result of falling corn prices since China rejected Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera with MIR162 corn trait, attorney Todd Barsumian can help you understand your options. Call today at 812-490-0820 for a free consultation.