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Almost 1,500 Lawsuits Involved in Syngenta MDL

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Topeka, KSIf you thought farmers were a laid-back sort who adopted a “wait-and-see” approach to difficulty, you might be in for a surprise. Almost 1,500 Syngenta lawsuits have already been consolidated in a lawsuit concerning Syngenta GMO corn seed, just months after centralization was approved, with more lawsuits possibly on the way. The Syngenta lawsuits allege commercialized corn seeds contain a trait that is not approved in China, making the corn impossible to sell in that market.

According to court documents (In Re: Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation, MDL No. 2591), certain corn seeds are genetically modified with MIR162, a trait that controls insects. These seeds are used in US corn stocks but are not approved by China, which has a complete ban on US corn that contains trait MIR162.

In approving centralization of the lawsuits for pretrial proceedings, the multidistrict litigation panel noted that plaintiffs are corn growers and a grain exporter who suffered financially because of China’s rejection of MIR162 corn.

“All actions involve common factual questions regarding Syngenta’s decision to commercialize the MIR162 genetically modified corn trait in the absence of Chinese approval to import corn with that trait,” the panel wrote. In allowing centralization, the panel is only confirming that the lawsuits have similar questions of fact. The approval of centralization is not a comment on the legitimacy of the lawsuits.

The multidistrict litigation was approved late in 2014, with nine lawsuits in eight districts. As of April 15, 2015, there were 1,477 pending lawsuits in the MDL in the US District Court for the District of Kansas before Judge John W. Lungstrum.

At issue are the Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade corn lines that were sold to farmers even though China had not given the lines necessary regulator approval. The lawsuit alleges that the average time for regulatory approval in China is 40 months, but Syngenta only sought Chinese approval in 2010, the same year it commercialized its Viptera product because time on the company’s patent was running out, putting profits at risk.

“Sadly, Syngenta opted for its monopoly profits over responsibility to its stakeholders,” the lawsuit alleges. Plaintiffs further allege that despite China not approving MIR162, Syngenta expanded sales for 2012 and 2013 growing seasons. After a US export to China was found to be contaminated with MIR162, China began rejecting US corn shipments.

Despite industry concern about Agrisure Viptera and Duracade - which was not yet on the market and reportedly contained MIR162 and Event 5307, neither of which was approved by China - Syngenta launched Agrisure Duracade for the 2014 crop year.

The lawsuits also allege Syngenta actively misled farmers about the timing and substance of its application for approval in China. Plaintiffs seek compensation for economic losses suffered as a result of Syngenta’s actions.

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