Big Class Action Suit Against Big Agribusiness

gmos_are_dangerous.jpgEarlier this month, the biotech firm Syngenta was hit with three class-action lawsuits demanding damages up to $1 billion. With Syngenta’s current net income at $1.65 billion, the suit could actually send a powerful message to the company: GMOs have dangerous consequences!

At question in these suits is Syngenta’s 2009 GMO corn product, MIR162, marketed as Agrisure Viptera, which Syngenta started importing to China prior to China’s overall approval of the sale. After the seeds were marketed and U.S.  farmers grew the corn on the promise that the market was ripe in China, China rejected U.S. shipments of the corn because it was genetically modified. Not only did this have the obvious impact of lost sales for farmers, the MIR162 corn was now diverted to the domestic market where it helped drop the price of corn in the US by eleven cents a bushel, according to some estimates. That may not sound like a lot, but when farmers are growing 200 bushels per acre on thousands of acres, those decimal points start moving pretty quickly. Ted Wheeler and Lacie Louwagie of Courthouse News provide a rundown of the three major issues that the main plaintiffs are claiming:

(1) Syngenta's release of Viptera corn into the U.S. corn and corn seed supply, which has destroyed the export of U.S. corn to China and caused depressed prices for all domestic corn;

(2) Syngenta's materially misleading statements relating to the approval status of MIR162 in China and the impact the lack of approval would have on the market; and

(3) Syngenta's widespread contamination of the U.S. corn and corn seed supply with MIR162, which will continue to foreclose the U.S. export market to China in future years and will continue to lead to lower corn prices per bushel in the U.S. market, as a result.”

Christina Sarich on Nation of Change explains the magnitude of Syngenta’s actions in China and how it could pave a bleak future for American corn farmers:

The USDA states on its website that the export relationship with China is ‘hard to predict’ but they’ve been refusing GMO crops for years now? They’ve refused shipments of 887,000 tons of US GMO corn, as well as up to eight additional shipments of GM corn, much of it due to Syngenta’s MIR162 contaminates.

Chinese authorities have been urging American officials to improve their “inspection procedures to ensure they comply with Chinese quality standards” for years now, so what’s the big surprise to US regulatory agencies?

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture claims on its website that the United States exports 20 percent of its corn crop. If that is true, those numbers are about to significantly drop.”

While we are sorry for the farmers’ loss, we are happy that they taking on big Agribusiness and we support their efforts. This class-action suit is a powerful and inspiring example of how collective action can change our food system. We will keep our eye closely on this case to see how it unfolds.  


Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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