US farmers sue Syngenta over GM corn

China rejected US corn containing Viptera seed variety, causing monetary losses to farmers worth billions of dollars

By Moushumi Sharma
Published: Monday 17 August 2015

Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, was planted on three per cent of corn fields in the US in the past two yearsAmerican farmers have sued the Swiss company, Syngenta, for selling genetically modified corn without the approval of China, a major buyer. The main corn-growing states—Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri—filed lawsuits in their states’ federal courts accusing the agribusiness giant of recklessness in its sale of AgrisureViptera corn seed in 2011, says Reuters.

According to the report, the farmers claimed they suffered losses because the price of US corn dropped as China rejected boatloads of corn containing Viptera in November 2013. An estimate by the National Grain and Feed Association puts the loss at $1 billion. Court documents obtained by the news agency reveal that Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, was planted on three per cent of corn fields in the US in the past two years.

“There are a lot of angry farmers out there who really feel like Syngenta needs to step up and do the right thing, and that is compensate farmers for all the losses that occurred as a result of Syngenta prematurely rushing the product to market,”Reuters quote James Pizzirusso, a partner with the law firm Hausfeld LLP, which is coordinating the farmers’ lawsuits.

According to the lawsuit, farmers were misled about China’s approval because Syngenta Chief Executive Michael Mack said in April 2012 that he expected Beijing to clear Viptera “within a matter of a couple of days”. As the controversy over the seed variety rages on, China is yet to give its approval.

“We don’t mess with China. When China buys something, the markets go up. When they don’t, the markets go down,” Deb Volnek, a Nebraska farmer who is among those suing Syngenta, told Reuters.
Farmers are not the only ones to sue the Swiss company. Last month, agribusiness firm Cargill Inc and another exporter separately sued Syngenta for selling Viptera corn seed before Beijing approved imports. They allegedly suffered combined damages of more than $131 million because of China’s rejections of US corn, says the report. Syngenta was not available for comment.

Proceedings of a workshop on socio-economic impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops

GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2010

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