Syngenta Corn Litigation
The U.S. is the largest producer and exporter of corn in the world. The business of agriculture is economically sensitive to many issues, from adverse weather conditions to the depletion of nutrients in soils. Insects can ravage what would otherwise be a very healthy and profitable harvest. To answer the latter problem manufacturers continually develop newer and better products to eliminate these insects, either through poisoning or genetic modification.
One such product that was approved for domestic use was Syngenta’s Viptera. As will be seen, the fact that Viptera received domestic approval was not sufficient, despite the fact that is proved to be very successful in eliminating pests that damaged corn plants. Indeed, a regulatory and financial nightmare resulted from the company’s failure to obtain approval internationally.
MIR 162 and Its Use
Syngenta introduced to U.S. markets its first genetically modified corn seeds (GMOs) in 2009. Agisure Viptera was the first generation corn seed product, which was later superseded by the second generation Agisure Duracade in 2014. These corn seeds were genetically modified with the trait MIR 162, which after regulatory testing gained approval from the FDA for use in corn products in the U.S. The purpose of the product was to protect corn crops against insects while at the same time rendering them tolerant of herbicides that were necessary but often harmful. Corn crops treated with MIR 162 also required less water while they grew, which was a boon to farmers whose profit margin is slim even in favorable harvest seasons.
Unfortunately, MIR 162 did not gain approval for use in corn products shipped to China. This is particularly a problem because of what is termed as the “commodity-based” harvesting system.
In essence, corn crops from various farmers are added together, or “commingled.” Thus, a farmer who did not use MIR 162 nonetheless had his crop combined with crops that did contain the trait.
For domestic use, this did not pose a problem, but for China, this led in November 2013 to the rejection of the entire season of farmers’ corn crops. China refused shipment of any corn with even a trace amount of the GMO. The total loss to U.S. farmers is estimated to have now reached over $2.9 billion.
Economic Fallout from China’s Rejection of MIR 162 Laced Crops
The loss to the corn industry and U.S. economy has been substantial. One food conglomerate, Cargill, reports that it has lost over $90 million because of rejected corn shipments. The problem is that, because of the commodity-based harvesting system, there is really no way of preventing a given shipment of corn from having trace amounts of MIR 162. Even if the crop yield from a farmer known to use the GMO is excluded from a shipment, cross-pollination may have occurred between farms and commingling during transportation.
The manufacturer, Syngenta, invested about $200 million over seven years in developing the genetically modified trait MIR 162. This may seem like a substantial investment, but in just one year alone, 2013, the company enjoyed $14.7 billion in sales from its various herbicides and insecticides. Numerous lawsuits have resulted from this issue, including several class-action suits for failure to seek regulatory approval and misinforming farmers, exporters, and the public about the acceptance of MIR 162 in China.
Questions about China’s Rejection of Shipments
A significant twist in the Syngenta controversy lies in China’s motives behind rejecting the GMO. According to the manufacturer, they conducted the necessary preliminary tests and submitted the required paperwork for regulatory approval over two years ago, and the Chinese government has, for whatever reason, failed to act upon the application. Moreover, in the past, China often accepted shipments of corn with MIR 162. It is only since late 2013 that the country has decided to reject any corn products with even a trace of the GMO as it imposed its zero-tolerance policy. In November of that year, the sudden turnaround resulted in delays in vessel discharges, expanded testing, and rejections of entire cargoes after they reached port.
Regardless of China’s new hardline policy toward Viptera, Syngenta continued to promote its sale to farmers. One lawsuit brought by Trans Coastal Supply contends that Syngenta did this out of greed and at the expense of farmers and that the company sold their product with the full knowledge that farmers who purchased Viptera would suffer significant financial loss.
Steeped in litigation, Syngenta claims that they do not owe a duty of care to individual farmers. In other words, it is not their responsibility to disclose to farmers the fact that use of their product could seriously impact the ability to sell crops due to China’s refusal to purchase grain that contains traces of MIR 162.
For Legal Assistance with Your Potential Claim
Syngenta is facing substantial litigation as a result of China’s rejection of their product Viptera. If you need assistance with a claim against Syngenta it is very important that you work with a law firm that has a proven track record with both class-action and single litigant claims. Call the successful and experienced lawyers of Nadrich & Cohen, LLP today to arrange an initial consultation.