Syngenta is the largest crop chemicals company in the world, marketing, distributing and selling genetically modified corn containing the “MIR 162” trait, which has not been approved for human or animal consumption in China and other major export companies. Unfortunately, Syngenta’s GMO corn is almost impossible to contain and has cross-pollinated and contaminated non-GMO corn crops throughout the United States. As a result, China has banned the import of all U.S. corn, a move that has had a sudden and catastrophic impact on the U.S. corn market, adversely affecting not only farmers, but grain handlers and exporters as well. If you have suffered damages allegedly caused by Syngenta’s GMO corn contaminating your non-GMO corn crops, or if you have been adversely affected by the decrease in U.S. corn prices, consult a reputable GMO corn attorney as soon as possible to explore your possible compensation options.
Beginning in 2011, Syngenta began marketing a new type of hybrid corn seed sold under the brand name Agrisure Viptera, which features a novel genetically modified trait called “MIR 162.” According to Syngenta, the Viptera variety of corn seeds have improved resistance to insects and other pests, which increases yields, and the company immediately began selling the GMO corn in the United States, refusing to wait and see if other countries would approve the strain of hybrid corn. In 2014, despite growing problems regarding its Viptera GMO corn, Syngenta began marketing two varieties of another genetically modified corn seed called Agrisure Duracade, which are hybrid combinations of various GMO traits, including one that contains Viptera.
There are two main issues that have been brought up in Syngenta GMO corn lawsuits. First, the price of corn has dropped dramatically, due to restriction of exports containing contaminated GMO corn that cannot be sold in other countries, including China, which has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy regarding unapproved genetic traits. The harm allegedly caused by Syngenta to non-GMO corn farmers is continuing in nature, and puts them at risk for additional damages in the future, caused by the potential cross-pollination and contamination of their corn crops with Duracade or Viptera corn, and from the drastic decline in prices for corn grown and harvested in the United States.
Second, GMO corn cannot be contained. Corn reproduces by cross-pollination from one corn plant to another, and pollen from corn stalks can travel over considerable distances and cross-breed with other corn plants. That means that GMO corn manufactured by Syngenta can be carried via pollen to neighboring corn fields and contaminate non-GMO crops. Lawsuits filed against Syngenta allege that the company encouraged side-by-side planting despite knowing about the risk of GMO corn contamination. Unfortunately, this strain of seed has been planted in roughly 2.8 million acres of corn fields across the United States, and has the ability to contaminate nearby fields that do not contain genetically modified corn seeds.
In November 2013, China discovered GMO corn in shipments of what was supposed to be non-GMO corn from the United States, which led the country to ban the import of all U.S. corn. To date, China has rejected or cancelled orders for more than 131 million bushels of corn from the United States. In addition to China, Brazil, Switzerland, the European Union, Colombia, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Turkey and Belarus have all refused to approve Duracade for human or animal consumption. Numerous countries, including China, South Korea, Venezuela, Jamaica, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, have also refused to approve Viptera corn for human or animal consumption.
Syngenta’s GMO corn allegedly contaminated the corn supply in the United States, which led China, the fastest growing export market for U.S. corn, to ban the import of all corn from the United States. As a result, U.S. corn exports were down 85% in 2014, compared to 2013, prices have dropped considerably, and farmers, grain handlers and exporters have been affected as a result. In response to Syngenta’s actions, individuals affected by the cross-pollination and contamination of Viptera and Duracade corn, or by the decrease in U.S. corn prices, have taken legal action against Syngenta, seeking compensatory and punitive damages for their losses, and the two largest industry organizations promoting grain producers and exporters in the U.S. have expressed serious concerns regarding Syngenta’s alleged negligence.
In a 2014 letter sent to Syngenta by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA), the agencies stated that they were “gravely concerned about the serious economic harm to exporters, grain handlers and, ultimately, agricultural producers – as well as the U.S.’s reputation to meet its customers’ needs – that has resulted from Syngenta’s current approach to stewardship of Viptera.” The agencies also stated that “[a]s a matter of policy, NGFA and NAEGA have communicated consistently, clearly and in good faith with biotechnology providers and seed companies about the importance of biotechnology providers actually obtaining regulatory approvals/authorizations for import in foreign markets before such traits are commercialized in the United States.”
More than a thousand GMO corn lawsuits have been brought against Syngenta recently, all of which involve similar allegations that the company knew or should have known that its genetically modified Viptera and Duracade corn seed would contaminate U.S. corn shipments and prevent the crops from being sold to other countries. However, despite the potential for Viptera and Duracade corn to cross-pollinate with non-Viptera and non-Duracade corn, Syngenta has reportedly rejected all appeals for the company to stop selling its genetically modified corn seed, and has even tried to place the blame on the farmers themselves.
According to Syngenta corn lawsuits, the crop chemicals company “had a duty to refrain from selling and distributing Viptera in a manner that would foreseeably cause harm to Plaintiffs, to use ordinary care in its commercialization of Viptera, and to protect Plaintiffs from an unreasonable risk of harm.” However, “Syngenta breached these duties by failing to exercise reasonable care to prevent the foreseeable contamination of the U.S. corn supply through cross-pollination and commingling that would naturally result from the premature sale and distribution of Viptera,” and “Syngenta’s breach is the direct and proximate cause of the damage suffered by Plaintiffs.”
As of February 2015, more than 1,300 farmers had brought GMO corn lawsuits against Syngenta in Minnesota State Court, and hundreds more have filed Viptera and Duracade claims in federal court. In February 2014, dozens of corn growers from Wisconsin filed a Syngenta class action lawsuit, and other class actions were filed against Syngenta in other states as well, including Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. Many of the claims involve allegations that Syngenta knew its Viptera and Duracade corn varieties were illegal in China, but continued to encourage farmers to plant the GMO corn to be exported to foreign markets. The following are some recent GMO corn lawsuits brought against Syngenta and other makers of genetically modified corn, on behalf of corn farmers, corn storage companies, corn exporters, corn brokers and workers in the U.S. corn markets:
2001 – Aventis settles for $110 million a claim that the company’s StarLink corn, which was EPA-approved for animal consumption only, contaminated the food supply, resulting in food recalls and loss of export markets.
2011 – Bayer AG agrees to a $750 million settlement to resolve claims filed on behalf of 11,000 U.S. farmers, who alleged that a strain of the company’s GMO rice contaminated crops and destroyed their export value.
September 2014 – One of the world’s biggest commodity traders, Cargill Inc., claims it lost $41 million due to China rejecting Syngenta GMO corn.
October 2014 – Three class action lawsuits filed against Syngenta in Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois federal courts claim that the company is to blame for reduced corn exports to China.
May 2015 – In just one month, the number of Syngenta corn lawsuits filed on behalf of farmers jumps by 300, to almost 1,800 claims.
July 2015 – Illinois grain-shipping company Trans Coastal Supply files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing losses and broken sales contracts following China’s rejection of U.S.-grown corn.
January 22, 2014 – The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) sends a joint letter to Syngenta asking the company to immediately stop selling Viptera and Duracade until it was approved by China and other U.S. export markets, because of the harm Syngenta’s commercialization of the GMO corn has caused to farmers across the country.
February 13, 2014 – Bunge, a global exporter of oilseeds, grains and related byproducts, announces publicly that it would reject all shipments containing Syngenta’s Duracade variety corn until the GMO corn was approved by China.
February 21, 2014 – Grain elevator Archer Daniels Midland Co. refuses to accept shipments of Duracade corn, stating that “commercializing seed products that are not approved in all of the major export markets is not responsible.”
April 2014 – The NGFA issues two economic reports that tabulate the combined harm that Syngenta’s GMO corn caused farmers, grain handlers and exporters, as falling between $1 billion and $2.9 billion.
Viptera and Duracade GMO corn lawsuits brought against Syngenta on behalf of farmers, grain handlers, exporters and workers in the U.S. corn industry allege the following:
The United States is the largest producer and exporter of corn in the world, and there are more acres of farmland (roughly 95 million) in the U.S. growing corn than any other crop, with approximately 20% of the corn grown each year being sold for export to foreign countries. Unfortunately, with China and other countries banning the import of GMO corn varieties like Viptera and Duracade from the United States, the country’s largest and most important cash crop has been all but deflated, and affected individuals are seeking compensation for their damages by filing a GMO corn lawsuit against Syngenta. If you believe you have been adversely affected by genetically modified corn from Syngenta, contact an experienced GMO corn lawyer today for legal help.