MIR162 fallout begins as Syngenta vows to appeal while battling in other states
Syngenta says it will appeal a recent verdict awarding thousands of Kansas farmers nearly $218 million in a lawsuit linked to the company’s 2011 introduction of Agrisure Viptera corn seed before Chinese approval.
The late-June decision impacts around 7,300 Kansas farmers. It is the first of many similar suits against Syngenta alleging its introduction of MIR162 prior to Chinese import approval caused farmers to lose money when the Chinese rejected billions of bushels of corn in 2013 after detecting the trait. The lawsuits allege the Chinese rejection ushered in a period of depressed corn prices that impacted all U.S. corn growers because the country ceased corn imports following the initial rejection.
“The verdict is great news for corn farmers in Kansas and corn growers throughout the country who were seriously hurt by Syngenta’s actions,” lawyers representing the Kansas farmers said after the verdict. “We look forward to pursuing justice for thousands more corn farmers in the months ahead,” according to the Alabama-based law firm Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton.
Syngenta, whose sale to Chinese-owned ChemChina gained final U.S. approval, says the suit is without merit. Prior to launch, Viptera was approved by the U.S. and what the company called “key import markets” at the time, and China was not one of them, Syngenta says.
“We are disappointed in the verdict because it will only serve to deny American farmers access to future technologies even when they are fully approved in the U.S.,” Syngenta said after the verdict.
An Ohio court in June dismissed a lawsuit brought by Poet’s Fostoria Ethanol plant. “This court is not persuaded by any reasoning ... that progress and development in agriculture ... should be delayed or put on hold until the government of China, or any other foreign government, so approves of a product,” Judge Steve C. Shuff wrote.
The federal class-action trial in Kansas will be followed in August by a similar case in Minnesota state court. Bloomberg News reports several other cases pending across the U.S. collectively represent some 350,000 corn growers claiming as much as $13 billion in damages based generally on the same allegations. Those states with pending class actions are Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota. Farmers in 13 other states are seeking class-action certification.
Farmers File Class Action Against Monsanto for Dicamba Drift
Farmers from 10 states are eligible to join a potential class-action lawsuit against Monsanto due to alleged dicamba drift damage. The states include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“They are among the hundreds of farmers throughout the nation who have been victimized by Monsanto’s defective Xtend seed system and its purchasers’ inevitable use of dicamba, a drift-prone herbicide that has wiped out hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in the U.S.,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Missouri.
Plaintiffs claim Monsanto willfully and negligently released the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend cropping systems without an accompanying, EPA-approved herbicide. The suit blames Monsanto for the off-label spraying that resulted.
Monsanto rejects the claims.
“This baseless lawsuit seeks an unprecedented expansion of the law by attempting to impose liability on a company that did not make the product that allegedly caused the damage, did not sell the product that allegedly caused the damage and, in fact, warned against the very use of the product alleged in the complaint,” Monsanto said in an emailed statement.
“This suit is simply an attempt to shift responsibility away from individuals who knowingly and intentionally broke state and federal law and harmed their neighbors in the process. The lawsuit is wholly without merit, and we will defend ourselves accordingly,” Monsanto said.