October 2, 2015 — Corn farmers scored a legal win after a federal judge rejected Syngenta’s bid to dismiss lawsuits involving economic losses from China’s rejection of genetically-modified (GMO) corn seed.
Syngenta claimed they had no control over how their products were used, and therefore they were not responsible for contaminating the nation’s corn supply, according to the The Daily Statesman.
U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum disagreed, and issued the following ruling:
“The law reasonably imposes a duty on a manufacturer to exercise reasonable care not to commercialize and sell its product in a way that creates a risk of widespread harm resulting from the intended use of the product by all of its customers.”
Judge Lungstrum also noted that the corn industry is an inter-connected market and Syngenta had actually told farmers that it would take steps to protect the industry from the very harm that occurred.
Estimates of economic losses range from $1 billion to $2.9 billion. However, actual damages may be significantly higher. American corn exports to China never fully recovered, despite approval of imports in December 2014.
The ruling paves the way for trials to move forward. Hundreds of lawsuits and class actions remain centralized in a federal litigation in Kansas. Unless a settlement is reached, it is likely that cases will be selected for “bellwether” trials.
Plaintiff counsel includes the same law firm that obtained a $750 million judgement against Bayer on behalf of American rice farmers who suffered similar economic losses due to GMO rice seed.
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