Syngenta's Genetically Modified Corn Leads Farmers to File for $1 Billion in Damages

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Farmers in 11 states have filed lawsuits seeking more than $1 billion in damages against Swiss biotech giant Syngenta AG over its genetically modified corn.

According to the farmers, Sygenta has been selling a genetically modified corn seed called Agrisure Viptera (MIR162) since 2011. But the corn seed, which represents about 30 percent of Syngenta’s sales in North America, has not been approved in China, one of the leading importers of U.S. grown corn. The genetically modified corn variety has caused China to reject more than $1 billion of U.S. corn shipments, which has hurt farmers with lost sales.

The discovery of Agrisure Viptera began last November, and it has been driving down corn prices ever since.

In addition to the suits filed by the U.S. farmers, grain exporters Cargill Inc. and Trans Coastal Supply Co. have also filed suits against Syngenta, reports the Wall Street Journal. The exporters report losses of tens of millions of dollars due to the rejection of the genetically modified corn by China.

The attorneys representing the farmers say corn prices have dropped 18 percent so far this year, and 40 percent last year. “Syngenta should not have marketed and aggressively promoted Viptera while misrepresenting that Chinese approval was imminent and also downplaying the importance of the Chinese export market,” James Pizzirusso, a partner at Hausfeld LLP, a Washington-based law firm coordinating some of the farmers’ legal efforts, told the Wall Street Journal.

But Syngenta representatives have dismissed the cases, saying that U.S. farmers shouldn’t be so reliant on Chinese regulations. “We continue to believe that [we have] complied with all the laws, rules and regulations of the countries in which we’re selling the product,” John Ramsay, Syngenta’s chief financial officer, said in a call with analysts.

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Image: thejesse

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