In 2011, Swiss-based company Syngenta released a genetically modified corn seed known as Agrisure Viptera, which was designed to include a protein that deters pests such as corn borers, black cutworm, and corn rootworm. When this product was released for farmers to purchase, it had been approved for sale in the United States, but had not yet been approved by several foreign countries, including China and the European Union. Despite lacking international approval, Syngenta sold the GMO corn seed to hundreds of U.S. farmers leading to an estimated 3% of the current corn crop being grown from the engineered seed.
China’s Refusal of U.S. Corn Impacts Market
In November 2013, China detected Viptera corn in a shipment from the United States and consequently rejected the shipment. This decision was broadcast throughout the international media and had dramatic consequences for our corn farmers. The methods by which American crops are gathered and distributed do not allow for the segregation of the unapproved GMO corn from approved corn. From the first refused shipment until February 2014, China rejected the majority of American corn, and the price of corn dropped drastically. China then imposed a complete ban on the import of American corn, turning away nearly 3.37 million tons of corn.
As the third largest importer of American corn, China’s ban on corn from the U.S. had a massive impact on the corn market in 2013 and 2014. Estimates put the resulting loss of income to the corn industry at several billion dollars.
Lawsuits Against Syngenta Underway
The first lawsuits regarding GMO corn were filed by Cargill Inc. and Trans Coastal Supply Co. seeking compensation for refused shipments of corn in Iowa state court. To date, over 10,000 U.S. corn farmers, grain elevators, and corn exporters have also filed suit against Syngenta, seeking to recover lost income from the drop in corn prices in 2013 and 2014. We anticipate over 100,000 corn farmers will ultimately file suit agains Syngenta in this litigation.
Syngenta is facing this torrent of lawsuits from the corn industry because of its premature marketing of unapproved GMO corn seed, with no regard for its impact on the global market. While promoting Viptera to farmers, Syngenta implied that Chinese approval of the GMO seed was imminent and downplayed the effect that a refusal would have on the market.
Due to Syngenta’s negligence, thousands of lawsuits have already been filed in state and federal courts in an effort to hold the company accountable for harming farmers across the country. The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has consolidated all federal Syngenta GMO corn lawsuits into a centralized multidistrict litigation before the Honorable John W. Lungstrum in the District of Kansas. The vast majority of cases have been filed in state court in Minnesota, where Syngenta is headquartered in the U.S.
Seeking Compensation for Losses caused by Syngenta Corn
Those who have suffered financially due to the decline in corn prices may be able to join the tens of thousands of farmers already filing lawsuits against Syngenta. The attorneys of Watts Guerra have extensive experience successfully handling agricultural lawsuits. Mr. Watts led the effort to obtain a settlement agreement with Bayer Crop Sciences, resulting in a $750 million settlement, making him one of only a very few attorneys experienced in agricultural mass torts, handling GMO mass actions to great financial success for his clients.
We can assist farmers across the country in recovering financial compensation for damages caused by the decline in the corn market due to Syngenta’s actions.