The battle between farmers and Syngenta over the company's Viptera corn trait and its rejection by China in 2013 continues to progress in the courts.
Last week, a federal district judge in Kansas City, Kansas, ruled that a class action lawsuit on behalf of farmers, grain handlers and exporters who assert they were economically harmed by the Viptera situation can advance to trial. Their lawyers assert that "Syngenta was negligent in the timing, scope and manner of commercializing Viptera and Duracade genetically modified corn in the U.S. knowing that China had not yet approved the corn.”
The farmers and their attorneys believe that China's rejection of U.S. corn with Viptera's MIR162 trait led to an interruption in trade with China and affected commodity prices, causing economic damages of between $1 billion to nearly $3 billion to farmers and others affected by the markets. China said at the time it had not approved the trait, which protects against pests such as corn earworm and black cutworm, for import.
Syngenta says it marketed Viptera corn after it received full regulatory approval in the U.S. in 2010 and other countries considered key export markets. In 2010 and 2011, however, China was not considered a key export market, said Duane Martin, commercial product lead at Syngenta.
“The Court was legally required at this early stage to take the plaintiffs’ allegations at face value, and accordingly concluded that certain claims could go forward past the initial legal phase. The plaintiffs will now have to prove their claims with real evidence, and we look forward to defending ourselves vigorously as the litigation proceeds," said Paul Minehart, spokesman for Syngenta. "Syngenta believes the lawsuits are without merit, and we will continue to defend the rights of American farmers to have access to safe, effective, U.S.-approved technologies like Agrisure Viptera. We commercialized Viptera in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements, and USDA statistics make clear that the commodity price of corn declined before China’s rejection of U.S. corn in November 2013."
Viptera was approved by China for import in December 2014.
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