In November 2013, China detected genetically modified traits in U.S. corn shipments. Because China had not approved the genetically modified trait, it halted U.S. corn imports. The following month, the Chinese government issued a warning notification strengthening the inspection and supervision of the import of genetically modified feed materials. This notification required the testing of all batches of U.S. corn and ruled that any cargo that tested positive for the unapproved trait would be returned or destroyed. This testing caused some Chinese customers to refuse to honor contracts to purchase corn and injected a great deal of uncertainty into the market. Following China’s decision in November 2013, U.S. imports to China have dropped by nearly 85% and corn prices have fallen considerably as a result.
The trait detected in the U.S. corn imports was Syngenta’s patented, genetically modified “MIR162” sold as Agrisure Viptera. In Fall 2010, Syngenta marketed “MIR162” even before Chinese approval. Many allege that Syngenta did this even though it knew China was poised to become one of the largest importers of U.S. Corn.
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It is alleged that losses to U.S. corn farmers because of Syngenta’s activities have been staggering. The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) found that Chinese rejection of U.S. corn, which resulted solely from concerns that MIR162 had infiltrated the entire U.S. corn supply, has lowered corn prices by 11 cents per bushel, leading to a projected loss of $1.14 billion for the last nine months of the marketing year ending on August 31, 2014. NGFA has estimated total projected corn losses of up to $3 billion. Overall, corn exports for the 2013-14 marketing year totaled 46,867,700 metric tons, which amounted to 4 percent less than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s projection of 48,770,000 metric tons, according to USDA figures released in September 2014.
Thousands of American farmers were impacted by this market loss.
The first of these cases against Syngenta for the market loss by farmers began trial in Minneapolis on Monday April 24, 2017 and is expected to last about three weeks. The second case goes to trial in Kansas City, Kansas on May 5, 2017. These will be the first test cases to see how juries view the facts and if they award damages.
The upcoming cases will certainly be watched closely by the thousands of impacted farmers.
Special thanks to Celeste Birdsall for her help with this article.
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