Thousands of Farmers Join Lawsuits against Swiss Corn Seed Maker

Farmers, grain elevator operators, and commodities exporters are joining a massive class-action lawsuit against Syngenta, the Swiss manufacturer of a genetically modified seed corn, claiming billions of dollars in damages after China refused shipments of all corn exported from the United States in 2013 and 2014.

The lawsuit claims that Syngenta developed the two strains of corn seeds—Agrisure Viptera in 2009, and Agrisure Duracade in 2012—without first getting the strains approved for exportation with the Chinese government.

As a result, the corn market crashed when shipments to China were rejected, resulting in millions of dollars of profits lost and a steep reduction in the price per bushel of corn. The lawsuits hope to recoup some of these losses directly from Syngenta.

Viptera and Duracade Contaminate All U.S. Corn

Genetically modifying seed corn is not a new development in American farming. Large seed manufacturers are constantly working to improve their strains of genetically modified crops to make hardier, pest-resistant plants with high yields.

However, genetically modified corn, soybeans, and other crops have attracted controversy in recent years as scientists and environmentalists have expressed concerns about the safety of genetically modified plants used for food, as well as the long-term environmental effects of these plants. As a result of these concerns, some countries are refusing to accept imports of genetically modified crops and foods.

Syngenta developed its two strains of seed corn to contain a genetically modified trait known as MIR 162. This trait prevents the corn from being eaten by cutworms or ear worms.

Viptera and Duracade have the ability to cross-pollinate with other types of corn. This means that even though only 3% of available acreage in the United States was planted with Viptera, cross-pollination has contaminated nearly every American crop of corn. Between pollen being carried by wind and insects, and genetically modified corn being mixed with other seeds at grain elevators and processing plants, it is virtually impossible to certify that any American seed corn does not contain MIR 162.

Chinese Rejection Crashes Market

Viptera was approved for planting in the United States in 2010. The same year, Syngenta applied for approval of the MIR 162 strain with the Chinese government. China is the third largest market for U.S. corn exporters.

China did not approve the importation of Viptera or Duracade until late 2014. Before the Chinese approved the strains of corn containing MIR 162, it initially banned all shipments of corn containing that trait.

In November of 2013, China rejected all shipments of U.S. seed corn, because of cross-pollination. The country refused over 1.45 million tons of corn, resulting in $427 million in lost sales for American farmers. The introduction of Viptera and Duracade before Chinese approval single-handedly reduced U.S. corn exports by 85% in 2014, and dropped the overall price of American corn by 11 cents per bushel.

Farmers Try to Recoup Losses

Viptera and Duracade were approved for export to China in December of 2014. However, the approval came after nearly five years of marketing a seed that contaminated the entire country’s crop of seed corn and led to huge financial losses for thousands of farmers nationwide.

Farmers, grain elevator operators, exporters, and others in the commodities business are banding together to hold Syngenta responsible for its behavior. A class action lawsuit, centered in Kansas, joins lawsuits from farmers from 20 different states seeking compensation for their losses.

The lawsuit accuses Syngenta of negligence, creating a public nuisance, acting with reckless disregard to the commodities market, misleading farmers by telling them Chinese approval was “imminent,” and of false and deceptive trade practices.

Oliver Law Firm Can Help You Recover

Did your Arkansas farm lose money in 2013 or 2014 as a result of falling corn prices? Did you grow Viptera or Duracade in Arkansas without knowing that it could not be exported for sale? Was your business harmed by these strains of genetically modified seed corn?

If so, you may be able to join this class action suit and seek compensation for your losses. At Oliver Law Firm, our Arkansas lawyers have experience with class action lawsuits and multi-district litigation, and will help you hold irresponsible manufacturers liable for your lost profits.

Call 479-202-5200 or use our case evaluation form to speak with a Viptera lawsuit attorney.