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GMO Corn Seed Lawsuit: Could Settlements Be Coming?

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 16, 2015 11:35 AM

Corn growers across the United States were hit hard when China began rejecting all U.S. corn shipments in 2013. The ban was due to the discovery of genetically modified corn strains that had not been approved for export to China in some U.S. corn shipments to the country.

Farmers and exporters affected by the ban sued Syngenta, the company that sells the discovered GMO corn varieties. Now that China has approved imports of Syngenta's AG biotech corn, will the company be prompted to settle the class action lawsuit?

Bad Seed Suit

According to a website for the class action, "Syngenta sells two genetically modified corn varieties, Viptera and Duracade, that are approved in the United States, but have not been approved in all export markets, including China." Both varieties have a genetically modified trait called MIR 162 GMO. When inspectors found MIR 162 in a corn shipment bound for China, the country began rejecting U.S. corn exports.

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of U.S. farmers who did not grow Viptera or Duracade, on the basis that they suffered market losses because of Syngenta's failure to make sure its corn was not included in the part of the U.S. corn supply that was exported.

The Doors Open

In December 2014, China's Ministry of Agriculture cleared MIR 162 corn for import. Attorneys representing the corn farmers in the class action against Syngenta believe this will likely pave the way for a settlement.

James Pizzirusso told Reuters that the ability to calculate potential damages from approved imports could give Syngenta an incentive to settle the MR 162 lawsuits. For its part, Syngenta says it has no intention of settling and aims to defend the litigation "vigorously."

What's Next?

Whether a settlement is reached remains to be seen. While the current suit only involves farmers who did not grow Viptera or Duracade, it's possible that farmers who grew the MIR 162 corn could have a legal claim, especially if Syngenta gave them assurances that the corn would sell in China.

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