November 5, 2015 — The Swiss biotech company Syngenta is facing lawsuits from about 2,000 corn farmers, elevators, and exporters who faced economic losses due to a genetically modified (GMO) seed, the Associated Press reports.
In early September, U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum rejected Syngenta’s motion to dismiss the litigation, clearing the way for trial. Since then, 300 lawsuits were filed in Iowa and another 200 in South Dakota.
The litigation has been centralized in Kansas under Judge Lungstrum since December 2014. More than 1,860 lawsuits have been transferred from 22 states, including 1,300 cases from Minnesota.
On October 21, Judge Lungstrum decided to select a small number of claims for so-called “bellwether” trials in June 2017. Plaintiffs include four farmers and two representatives of non-farmer agribusinesses.
Judge Lungstrum may decide to certify the cases as a class action, which would cover every corn farmer in the United States who had economic losses due to Syngenta.
The lawsuits involve Agrisure Viptera, a GMO corn seed that contains a protein that kills pests like earworms and cutworms. It was approved by the USDA in 2010 and planted the following year. Due to cross-pollination and cross-contamination during handling, much of the American corn supply was tainted with the GMO trait.
When China banned imports of GMO-tainted corn, the price plummeted and the industry lost and estimated $1-3 billion. At the time, China was the third-largest customer for American corn. Exports still have not recovered despite China’s approval of imports in December 2014.
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