April 13, 2015 — The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation (JPML) has transferred about 1,400 lawsuits involving economic losses from Syngenta GMO corn into a centralized federal litigation.
The Multi-District Litigation (MDL) in federal court in Kansas previously contained about 550 lawsuits. According to Law360, about 530 cases were transferred from Minnesota and approximately 870 cases are still being transferred.
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed at the state-level, with plaintiffs Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. arguing that they do not belong in federal court. They say Syngenta should have known that releasing GMO corn in the United States before it was approved by China could result in substantial economic losses for farmers.
However, Syngenta continues to argue that the federal venue is appropriate given the accusations of an “international trade incident.”
They say a federal court is necessary to consider the legality of China’s sovereign acts in turning away Syngenta’s GMO corn.
The genetically modified (GMO) seed in question was submitted for approval in 2010. Although only a small percentage of American corn acres were planted with the GMO seed, much of the nation’s crop was tainted due to cross-pollination and cross-contamination on shared grain elevators and trucks.
China did not approve imports of GMO corn seed until December 2014, nearly five years after Syngenta first asked for approval. In the meantime, China rejected 1.45 million metric tons of American corn, the price plummeted, and farmers lost an estimated $3 billion.
A nearly-identical scenario played out a few years ago with GMO rice sed engineered by Bayer. When the seed tainted American rice crops, several countries refused to import rice and it ruined export values. In July 2011, Bloomberg reported that Bayer agreed to pay $750 million to settle claims involving 11,000 farmers.
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