September 27, 2017
Swiss based Agri-giant Syngenta (with revenues of over $12 Billion USD in 2016) yesterday agreed to settle all claims of U.S. corn farmers, along with claims of grain elevator owners and ethanol producers. Syntenta will pay about $1.4 Billion, representing approximately the same amount as it earned as profits in 2016. Terms are confidential; however, the settlement would establish a fund to pay claims by farmers who contracted to price corn or corn byproducts after Sept. 14, 2013. Details will be announced after the agreement is submitted for court approval later this year.
In 2010, Syngenta announced that it planned to commercialize a new hybrid corn seed under the trade name Agrisure® Viptera™. Although Viptera had been approved by the USDA, it was not approved by our major export markets, most notably China. At the time, it was clear that China was a large and rapidly growing market for U.S. corn. As a result, several national trade organizations, including the NGFA and NAEGA, sent a very public letter to Syngenta asking it not to commercialize Viptera until it was approved for import into China. Syngenta was told in no uncertain terms that it was risking the U.S. corn trade market—and thus U.S. corn prices.
“Putting the Chinese and other markets at risk with such aggressive commercialization of biotech-enhanced events is not in the best interest of U.S. agriculture or the U.S. economy.” Joint Statement by National Grain and Feed Association and North American Export Grain Association CLICK HERE to read the full statement.
Despite the warnings, Syngenta nevertheless proceeded to broadly commercialize Viptera.
Understanding the potential harm to corn prices, one of the top 3 grain elevators, Bunge, put up signs saying it was not going to purchase Viptera corn. In response, Syngenta sued Bunge in federal court, asking the court to order Bunge to purchase Viptera corn. Syngenta argued that Bunge could simply segregate Viptera corn to prevent it from contaminating corn that would be shipped overseas. The court denied Syngenta’s request and found that it was unreasonable to ask grain elevators to segregate Syngenta’s corn—and the cost would be astronomical.
As predicted, Viptera contaminated the U.S. corn supply. In November 2013, China, then the second largest importer of U.S. corn, found Viptera in a shipment of corn during inspection. At the time, China had not approved Viptera and turned the ship around at the dock. During inspections in late 2013 and early 2014, China discovered that many shipments of U.S. corn were contaminated with the Viptera GMO trait. In response, China banned the import of all U.S. corn. Not surprisingly, corn prices have fallen and studies conducted by the NGFA and the NAEGA have found that Syngenta’s conduct has caused billions of dollars of harm to corn farmers and the entire U.S. corn supply channel.
The trade organizations again sent letters to Syngenta asking it to pull Viptera from the market until it obtained China’s approval.
“NAEGA and NGFA are gravely concerned about the serious economic harm to exporters, grain handlers and, ultimately, agricultural producers – as well as the United States’ reputation to meet its customers’ needs – that has resulted from Syngenta’s current approach to stewardship of Viptera. Further, the same concerns now transcend to Syngenta’s intended product launch plans for Duracade, which risk repeating and extending the damage. Immediate action is required by Syngenta to halt such damage.” NGFA and NAEGA Joint Statement, http://www.ngfa.org/2014/01/24/ngfa-naega-issue-joint-statement-urging-syngenta-to-suspend-commercialization-of-agrisure-viptera-and-duracade-biotech-corn/
Our expert economists have calculated that farmers lost 50 cents per bushel of corn in that first year after the ban; after that, our experts have calculated an additional 15 cents per bushel through today.
Some of the big exporters, including Cargill, ADM, and Trans Coastal, have filed lawsuits against Syngenta. Shortly after China imposed its ban on U.S. corn, trade groups estimated the total losses at around $3 billion and predicted (accurately) that the decline in corn prices would continue.
September 26, 2017: The second class trial was stopped and settled in Minneapolis, and Syngenta agreed to pay about $1.4 Billion to fund the compensate farmers, grain elevator operators and ethanol producers.
July 5, 2017: The first trial on behalf of an individual farmer was set to begin on July 10, 2017. Just before the Final Pretrial Conference, the parties agreed to a confidential settlement in this individual farmer’s case. The next trial will begin on September 11, 2017 and is on behalf of a class of Minnesota corn farmers.
June 23, 2017: The first class trial occurred in June 2017. On June 23, 2017, the jury returned a unanimous verdict for Plaintiffs, which were a group of 7,343 Kansas farmers. The jury awarded full damages in the amount of $217,700,000 ($217.7 Million). You can read more about the farmer’s win here:
Notice to Corn Farmers and Silo Owners: It is not too late to join in the litigation if you have been harmed. Farmers and others who ‘opt out’ of the Class Action will be considered for substantially greater (full compensation) damages. Please contact Avery Law Firm at toll free 866-987-4368 or complete the contact form below:Contact us to begin your Free Confidential Case Evaluation now!