The lawsuits were filed in relation to Agrisure Viptera, a seed that is genetically modified (through a modification known as MIR162) to prevent destruction by earworms and cutworms. According to reports, the seed was first sold to farmers in 2011. China does not allow the import of genetically modified plants it has not tested, and had not approved Viptera when it was sold. In February 2014, China, having discovered Viptera corn traits in US shipments, began rejection of US corn imports.
According to ABC News, more than 1,860 cases have been transferred for consolidation to US District Judge John Lungstrum’s court in Kansas City, Kansas. In September, Judge Lungstrum refused to dismiss the lawsuits, rejecting Syngenta’s argument that it was not responsible for protecting farmers from its genetically modified seed.
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The National Grain and Feed Association estimates that almost $3.0 billion in economic losses were sustained by the US corn and soy sectors linked to Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera MIR162 corn seeds as of April 2014. According to at least one lawsuit, Syngenta had allegedly been warned by industry participants not to introduce another MIR genetic trait because commercialization before receiving approval in foreign markets would have “devastating consequences.”
The first bellwether trials are expected to go to court in June 2017. Lawsuits have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings in MDL No. 2591, In Re: Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation.