What Was the Syngenta Corn Lawsuit?
Farmers across the country filed lawsuits in state and federal courts against Syngenta. Syngenta is a global Swiss agribusiness that markets seeds and agrochemicals. It is also the maker of a genetically-modified corn seed known as Agrisure Viptera MIR162 (Viptera for short).
In 2010, Syngenta released Viptera, a genetically engineered corn trait, to the US market. By design, Viptera was resistant to insects such as the corn borer and corn rootworm.
However, Syngenta brought the seed to market without getting approval for sale in China. At the time it was marketing the seed, Syngenta told investors, “There isn’t outstanding approval for China, which we expect quite frankly to have within a matter of days. That was in April 2012. Syngenta wouldn’t get approval from China until December 2014.
In June 2013, China found traces of Viptera in US corn shipments and subsequently shut down US corn imports. With the first rejection of US corn due to Syngenta seed, corn prices fell from nearly $7 a bushel to a little under $3.30 a bushel in October 2014.
The Syngenta corn lawsuit looked to recover money for farmers whose crops lost their value due to falling corn prices caused by the Viptera seed.
How Did Syngenta Cost Corn Farmers Millions?
China didn’t just refuse Syngenta corn — it refused all corn tainted by Syngenta’s seed. Because of this, China increased corn supply in the US, which led to a decrease in price. Syngenta does not believe that it was responsible, stating that “oversupply in general caused corn prices to fall.”
The USDA had predicted that China would import 7 million metric tons of corn in 2013. However, due to China’s rejection of shipments tainted by Viptera, the US only exported 1.23 million metric tons to China that year.
China finally approved Viptera on Decmeber 16, 2014. However, between November 2013 and March 2014 alone, 3.3 million metric tons of US corn were either rejected or diverted. The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) estimated that the trade disruption with China amounted to up to a $2.9 billion loss for both corn and soy.
What Could Farmers Do?
Many farmers filed individual suits against Syngenta that were consolidated into a mass tort. Regardless of what state they lived in, farmers could file their claims. Even farmers who did not plant Viptera could file since the lawsuit was focused on the damage to corn prices overall. Anyone who planted corn in 2013 and/or 2014 was potentially eligible to recover damages lost to falling corn prices.
Mass tort claims can take anywhere from 18-24 months and can sometimes go even longer. Similar lawsuits regarding rice took several years. Farmers expected damages to range between $0.11 and $1 per bushel. Less than 1 percent of farmers who filed suit were likely to be deposed.
How Hensley Legal Group Helped
At Hensley Legal Group, the farmers we represent will pay nothing until we secure compensation for them. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that our clients don’t have to pay for our services unless and until we secure a settlement or award for them. If there is no recovery, we don’t collect our fee.
Hensley Legal Group is no longer taking new Syngenta corn cases. If you feel you have a potential case, we encourage you to contact another law firm.