Syngenta opposes class action seeking over $5bn in damages related to its genetically engineered corn

Syngenta is contesting a US court’s decision to allow multiple lawsuits initiated by American sweetcorn farmers to proceed as a single class action suit, which seeks more than $5 billion (£4 billion) in damages. The farmers argue that they were harmed by Syngenta’s premature release of genetically engineered insect-resistant corn seed MIR162 – marketed as Viptera or Duracade – into the US market before it received import approval from China, which plays a key role in the US export market.

The trial is set for 5 June 2017. Lawyers representing the farmers estimate that US corn producers lost between $5 billion and $7 billion in current and future revenue because China stopped importing US corn in November 2013, when shipments were found to be contaminated with MIR162 corn.

However, Syngenta ‘respectfully disagrees’ with the latest court ruling, particularly given the widely varying ways in which farmers grow and sell corn in different markets across the US. Syngenta points out that the court did not rule that the claims actually have merit, and the company maintains that its corn seed product was commercialised ‘in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements’.

In its appeal, Syngenta said the suits are seeking damages based on ‘novel and dubious theories that Chinese rules on genetically modified traits for corn seeds should have dictated defendants’ practices in the US’.