It was late December 2013 when, according to the Los Angeles Times (12/27/13), China rejected almost 546,000 tons of US dried distillers’ grain - a byproduct of corn - when it was discovered the product contained a modified trait that had yet to be approved by China. As the LA Times reported, MIR162 strain, developed and manufactured into corn seed by Syngenta AG, is designed to resist insects - and by the end of 2013, China had not yet approved use of MIR162. So when two separate shipments of the GMO product arrived in Shanghai in the second and third weeks of December 2013, they were summarily turned away.
In the end, according to Bloomberg (12/18/14), China rejected a total of 1.2 million tons of corn containing the MIR162 strain before finally approving MIR162 a year later, in December 2014. By that time, however, significant damage had been done to the US corn market and corn producers. China is a major importer of US corn.
By that time, however, as The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2014, eleven states had already filed lawsuits alleging losses incurred due to Syngenta’s move to sell the GMO corn to China prior to approval by Chinese authorities. The Syngenta lawsuits have since been consolidated into a MultiDistrict Litigation, In Re: Syngenta AG MIR162 ) Corn Litigation, MDL No. 2591, Case No. 2:14-md-2591-JWL-JPO, United States District Court for the District of Kansas.
Steve Randall is with Pearson, Randall & Schumacher, a Minneapolis law firm that represents some of the firm’s clients currently involved in litigation against Syngenta. “Syngenta knew and fully understood the risk associated with getting approval [from China],” he said, in comments to Online Legal Media senior writer Brenda Craig. According to court documents, “This was corporate greed at its worst...To attempt to minimize the perceived impact of its conduct, Syngenta actively misled farmers, industry participants and others about the importance of the Chinese market, the timing and substance of its application for approval in China and the timing of when China was likely to approve MIR162.”
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As Bloomberg reports, it is not known when corn exports to China will recover, or if they will achieve the level seen in recent years. US corn prices declined three percent in 2014, v. a decline of 40 percent the previous year, when shipments to China were turned away.
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) estimated that losses to the US corn industry due to rejected exports to China totaled $2.9 billion.