The debacle posed by Syngenta’s misrepresentation of imported GMO grain from China a decade ago led to the largest agricultural class-action lawsuit in the history of this country. In 2018, the $1.51 billion settlement represented corn producers, ethanol plants and grain handling facilities who sustained losses from the sale of U.S. corn exports to China that China ultimately rejected.
In the suit, plaintiffs argued that Syngenta was negligent in commercializing two strains of insect-resistant GMO corn:
- Agrisure Viptera
- Agrisure Duracade
before ensuring import approval from China. When China rejected the corn as a result, this caused corn prices in the U.S. to take a nosedive.
Many farmers in Texas and across the country are still trying to recover from the devastating impact of this event, and many separate lawsuits are ongoing. It may be possible to obtain compensatory relief from financial loss even if you did not purchase either strain of GMO corn. Getting more information on your legal options is an important first step.
How it all began
In 2011, the science-based agtech company Syngenta began selling seed with a genetically modified trait, MIR162, to American corn farmers. Even though the GMO varieties, Viptera and Duracade, had been approved in the United States, other countries including China had not yet approved them.
Because Syngenta had assured farmers that China, which was at that time a major buyer of U.S. corn, would soon approve the GMO corn, farmers used the strain in their production that in that year and subsequent years. When China tested U.S. corn shipments and found the MIR162 trait in 2013, they rejected them. The trade disruption that resulted caused the price of corn to plunge domestically. Farmers allege that by losing the China export market, overall global demand for U.S. corn decreased as well.
Why the problem has not resolved
According to a report from the National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association, the U.S. corn industry suffered between $1 billion and $2.9 billion overall. Estimated market losses to the industry were at least $0.11 per bushel, and they may have been as high as $0.20 to $0.30 per bushel.
Plaintiffs in ongoing cases allege that the market has still not righted itself, and that damage will continue until the trade disruption ends and the levels of production are where they once were. In the meantime, both federal multidistrict proceedings and state level cases are currently in litigation to recoup damages from Syngenta.