I’ve had many inquiries over the past months from farmers, agribusinesses and their attorneys about lawsuits against Syngenta. The inquiries usually contain a sense of intrigue and curiosity, combined with skepticism—sort of, “Is this for real?” Here are the results of my investigation thus far.
“Duracade” and “Viptera” are Syngenta brands of genetically modified seed corn. In November 2013, China began rejecting Duracade and Viptera corn (along with every shipment of corn containing even a trace of it), and prices of corn began dropping. Since then, many lawsuits have been filed in both federal and state courts against Syngenta. The lawsuits ask that Syngenta be held liable because of the following:
All such Federal Court lawsuits are now consolidated into a single case: In re Syngenta AG MIR 162 Corn Litigation in the District of Kansas (the “In re Syngenta Case”).
The In re Syngenta Case is similar, but unrelated, to a group of Federal Court lawsuits over genetically modified rice that are consolidated into a single case: In re Genetically Modified Rice Litigation in the Eastern District of Missouri. The rice case involved a mistaken release of a long-grain rice strain genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant. The rice strain spread quickly and, by 2006, had contaminated approximately 30% of all long-grain rice production lands in the U.S. Accordingly, the European Union refused to import any U.S. long-grain rice, and the price of long-grain rice dropped dramatically. Producers filed numerous lawsuits against the rice strain developer. The cases settled for a payment of $750 million in damages after jury trials of several test cases (called “Bellweather Trials”) resulted in verdicts for plaintiffs.
Consolidated cases with many plaintiffs, like these corn and rice cases, are typically led by a Court-appointed leadership team of attorneys for plaintiffs. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the leadership team in the In re Syngenta Case includes some of the same attorneys who served on the leadership team in the In re Genetically Modified Rice case and who helped prosecute the Bellweather Trials.
The In re Syngenta Case is moving forward at a rapid pace for litigation, which probably seems like glacial pace to anyone but lawyers. Here are some developments and issues in the Case [my apologies for the legalese that follows]:
The In re Syngenta Case is in its earliest stages, is making progress, but has a long way to go. The next critical questions in the Case are these: How will the Court rule on Syngenta’s Motion to Dismiss? And when and how will class certification issues be addressed and resolved?
*The author, Donald L. Swanson, is a shareholder in the Koley Jessen P.C., L.L.O., law firm of Omaha, Nebraska. We wish to thank him for this submission.
CALT does not provide legal advice. Any information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for legal services from a competent professional. CALT's work is supported by fee-based seminars and generous private gifts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material contained on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of Iowa State University.