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Defendants in Syngenta Lawsuits Pushing for Federal Jurisdiction

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Kansas City, KSGiven the positioning by the defendants in some of the Syngenta lawsuits currently in the pipeline, it appears as if Syngenta is trying to lay the blame on China for delaying the approval of Syngenta GMO corn seed rather than admitting, an assertion plaintiffs are making, that Syngenta jumped the gun on promoting the genetically modified corn seed to farmers based on an assumption that Chinese approval was imminent.

The debacle fueled massive losses in the US corn industry after shipments of Viptera corn seed and its cousin, Duracade, were turned away by China. What’s more, given the co-mingling that happens when corn is processed and distributed, China made the decision to turn away all US corn shipments, triggering a free fall in corn prices and producing a glut in the market. Various commercial and private farmers as well as corn distributors have launched Syngenta lawsuits against the company that developed the Viptera and Duracade corn seed to ward against insects and other natural pests.

Syngenta Genetically Modified Corn Seed Sales lawsuits have been filed at the state level, with many of the connected lawsuits having been consolidated in Kansas. However, there are those who continue to argue that cases do not belong in federal court. Plaintiffs Cargill Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Co. and a handful of commercial farmers continue to argue that no federal issue is raised by their state-law claims and are lobbying to have cases remanded to state court.

However, Syngenta continues to argue that federal court is the proper venue given an alleged “international trade incident” with regard to the delayed approval of Viptera corn seed and the Duracade product, and the refusal to admit the GMO corn into the country. As a result, Syngenta holds that claims give rise to federal review given a question over the legality of China’s decision.

“The complaints make clear that China’s actions directly caused plaintiffs’ alleged injuries - specifically, China’s actions in delaying approval of Viptera corn, rejecting shipments containing Viptera, and later banning U.S. corn imports,” Syngenta argued. “Plaintiffs claim they were injured ‘as a result of China’s prohibition on’ Viptera, and there is no question that plaintiffs’ alleged injuries would not have occurred but for China’s actions.”

The GMO seed carries the MIR162 trait originally submitted by Syngenta for approval in 2010. Over the ensuing years the trait was approved by several countries, and presumably Syngenta was led to believe that approval by China - the largest importer of US corn - was imminent. Syngenta began actively promoting the insect-resistant corn to farmers, many of whom planted Duracade corn seed and/or Viptera. While the number of commercial and private farmers planting the newly introduced seed remained a small minority compared with the US farming community overall, the co-mingling of corn in the distribution process resulted in a much larger problem…

To that end, when China refused shipments of corn carrying the MIR162 trait, the refusal was not confined to GMO corn but ALL corn shipments from the US due to the co-mingling issue. This led to massive losses estimated to be between $1 billion and $3 billion.

China finally approved MIR162 in December 2014 - nearly five years after Syngenta GMO Corn Seed was submitted for approval in March 2010.

Plaintiffs in Syngenta lawsuits argue that Syngenta was wrong to actively promote the GMO seed without all approvals in place, putting farmers, distributors and the entire US corn industry at significant risk given China’s position as the largest importer of corn. Syngenta argues that it followed all necessary protocols, and that China is to blame for dragging its heels on the approval process. Given the international nature of the issue, Syngenta continues to lobby for federal jurisdiction in the Syngenta Genetically Modified Corn Seed Sales lawsuits.

Syngenta lawsuits filed by Cargill, ADM and a pair of commercial farming operations were originally filed in state courts of Arkansas and Louisiana. The current case being debated is In Re Syngenta AG MIR 162 Corn Litigation, case number 2:14-md-02591, in the US District Court for the District of Kansas.


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