There are now nearly 1,500 cases pending in the Syngenta multidistrict litigation (MDL), and experts expect that number to continue to rise. Wisconsin recently filed a class action suit in federal court that coincides with actions filed in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.
The lawsuits allege that at the recommendation of Syngenta, farmers planted Viptera corn seed and/or Duracade corn seed in an effort to increase yields and eliminate pests through the use of trait MIR 162 in the modification of the GMO corn, but when the crops were subsequently exported to China, the Republic turned them away beginning in November 2013 because it had not yet approved the trait.
To exacerbate the situation, due to the mixing and handling of corn during the distribution process, corn not grown with the MIR 162 strain was intermingled with the corn containing the GMO trait, prompting China to refuse all corn exports from the U.S. until December 2014, when China lifted the ban.
As a result, corn prices in the U.S. fell dramatically, and farmers who had used the Syngenta GMO as well as those who had not were both negatively affected. The National Grain and Feed Association estimates that the issue cost American farmers approximately $1.14 billion in losses for the last nine months of 2014.
What is MIR162?
Syngenta’s product MIR 162 contains a Bt protein that is toxic to a variety of corn pests, principally corn earworm, armyworm, cutworm, and corn borer. It is approved in the U.S. and important markets in the European Union (EU), but until recently was not approved in China. MIR 162 was planted on approximately three percent of U.S. acres for the last two growing seasons and was not confined to any specific growing region.
MIR 162 was actually approved for cultivation in Brazil before the U.S. and Syngenta used that approval as grounds to start the approval process in China.
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