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.
Lawsuits filed against Syngenta allege the company released seeds on the market even though there was no prior approval from foreign markets, costing some farmers massive financial losses. Even farmers who did not farm the modified seed could be affected because of the potential for unintentional contamination of neighboring fields. Plaintiffs allege Syngenta knew or should have known its product was illegal in China but still encouraged farmers to plant the seed.
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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.