January 20, 2015 — The Columbus Dispatch reports that a group of farmers from Ohio have joined a lawsuit against Syngenta AG, the Swiss agribusiness who sent corn prices plummeting after they introduced a genetically modified (GMO) seed before it was approved in China.
About 30 farmers filed lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Those cases, and about 140 more, were conditionally transferred to one federal court in Kansas where all of the lawsuits have been centralized.
The GMO seed, known as Agrisure Viptera, was approved for planting in the United States in 2010. Although only a tiny percentage of American fields were planted with the seed, it cross-pollinated with neighboring fields and cross-contaminated on shared grain elevators, trains, and trucks.
China, the third-largest customer of American corn seed, refused to buy about 1.4 million metric tons of tainted seed, sending prices plummeting. They did not allow imports of Viptera until December 2014.
Farmers accuse Syngenta of negligence for recklessly marketing Viptera in the United States and misleading farmers about its imminent approval in China. According to one lawsuit, exports of Viptera corn reduced U.S. corn exports by 85% in 2014.
Plaintiffs claim Syngenta knew Viptera would contaminate American corn, but instead of waiting for approval in China they “gambled U.S. farmers’ livelihood on approval of Viptera by the major corn-importing countries.”
The litigation closely resembles one involving a GMO rice seed made by Bayer. The seed, called LibertyLink, cross-contaminated more than 30% of American fields and sent prices plummeting. In July 2011, Bayer paid $750 million to settle lawsuits on behalf of about 11,000 rice farmers.
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