Economy

Syngenta Seeks to Settle GMO Corn Cases

Syngenta Seeks to Settle GMO Corn Cases”

Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta has agreed to settle tens of thousands of USA lawsuits by farmers over the company's rollout of a genetically engineered corn seed variety before China approved it for imports.

Syngenta contended that larger market forces, not China's rejection of Viptera, drove corn prices down, and that China wasn't a big corn importer when it launched Viptera. The strain hadn't been approved by authorities in China, which in 2013 began rejecting USA corn shipments found to contain the Syngenta genes.

China approved Viptera for import in 2014 and Duracade in 2017 and has recently begun increasing its purchases of US corn.

The settlement also would affect an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 Minnesota farmers who filed individual lawsuits, and farmers in half a dozen other states including Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and IL.

Terms were not disclosed.

"It's a global settlement", said Lewis Remele, Minneapolis attorney and co-lead counsel for the Minnesota farmers.

Most of the farmers suing Syngenta didn't grow Viptera or Duracade, but China rejected millions of tons of their grain because elevators and shippers typically mix grain from large numbers of suppliers, making it hard to source corn free of the trait.

The settlement nearly equals the $1.5 billion that Syngenta generated in net income previous year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Syngenta says the settlement would establish a fund to pay claims. The market didn't rebound because China found other sources for corn, the farmers said.

The settlement comes as China National Chemical Corp.is pushing ahead with its $43 billion acquisition of Syngenta, created to transform the state-backed company into the world's biggest supplier of pesticides and agrochemicals. U.S., Chinese and European Union regulators have approved the deal, but the buyout is awaiting a nod from other countries.

Syngenta officials had denied causing harm or damages. When Viptera was released, heavy rains set off a bumper crop in the U.S. Minnesota farmers in the lawsuit alleged that they lost $450 million in sales and lower corn prices.

The proposed settlement doesn't constitute an admission by either side over the merits of the cases, the company's statement said.

The Minnesota case is In re Syngenta Litigation, 27-cv-15-3785, District Court, Hennepin County, Minnesota (Minneapolis).



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