The payout was awarded to over 7,000 corn growers and exporters in Kansas who lost money when China refused to accept all American corn because some of it tested positive for Syngenta’s GMO seed Viptera® MIR162, which cut the price of U.S. corn to record lows.
Lawyers for U.S. corn farmers say Syngenta cost the industry $5.77 billion and they have filed class actions on behalf of farmers in many states in addition to Kansas.
The price of a bushel of corn was $3.66 on June 26, which is less than half of its peak at $8.26 per bushel in the year before the crisis. The average price of corn has fallen 20% since the Chinese ban in 2013. According to lawyers for the farmers:
The verdict is great news for corn farmers in Kansas and corn growers throughout the country who were seriously hurt by Syngenta’s actions. This is only the beginning. We look forward to pursuing justice for thousands more corn farmers in the months ahead.”
Syngenta said it will appeal the verdict and believes the decision will deny American farmers access to future technologies. Today nearly 90% of corn in the U.S. is genetically engineered to kill weeds and pests.
Syngenta started selling GMO corn in the U.S. in 2010 before it was approved in China — the 3rd-largest buyer of American corn at the time. In November 2013, China rejected all American corn in after it tested positive for GMO traits, causing a crash in corn prices.
The problem was that GMO corn and non-GMO corn mixed together in the export process. Syngenta was partly to blame for the contamination because it filed lawsuits against grain elevators who refused to accept its controversial GMO corn.
Lawyers for corn farmers and exporters who lost money as a result of Syngenta’s actions have filed class actions in several states, with each lawsuit centralized into one federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2591) in Kansas.
The first trial began on June 5 and involved Kansas-based plaintiff Five Star Farms. The other certified state class actions involve Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota. Numerous other state class actions are awaiting certification in the MDL.
The lawsuit is In Re: Syngenta AG MIR 162 Corn Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas — Case No. 14-md-02591.