December 12, 2014 — The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has issued a transfer order (PDF) to centralize a growing number of lawsuits involving genetically-modified Syngenta corn seed.
The JPML centralized the litigation in a federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2591) in the District of Kansas, under Judge John W. Lungstrum. One lawsuit and three pending potential tag-along actions are already pending in this district.
All of the lawsuits accuse Syngenta of improperly selling the seed to farmers throughout the United States without ensuring that the seed could be exported to China, which is the third-largest customer of American corn.
Although Syngenta’s corn seed was only planted on 3% of corn acres, it contaminated much of the corn supply in the United States due to cross-pollination and cross-contamination during storage and shipment.
Last year, the Chinese government banned imports on American corn with this trait. As a result, the price of corn plummeted, costing farmers billions of dollars. Now, many farmers who did not plant Syngenta corn seed are suing the company.
At least nine lawsuits have been filed in eight district courts. Members of the litigation are corn growers and one corn exporter who suffered economic losses after China refused to accept genetically-modified corn.
There are many benefits to centralizing the lawsuits in an MDL. Because the cases share many common factual questions, coordination will help eliminate duplicative discover, avoid conflicting pre-trial rulings, and conserve the resources of parties and the court.
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