Iowa farmers are suing biotech giant Syngenta over GMO contamination which prompted China to cancel corn orders and refuse shipments. Genetically modified (GMO) corn was rejected by China last year because Beijing officials considered the genetically engineered crop strain “contaminated.”
The specific type of corn, Syngenta AG’s Agrisure Viptera, had not been approved by China. The rejection of the corn led to a drop in grain and soybean futures, and a three-year low for the price of corn at the Chicago Board of Trade amid concerns that China is going to limit not just corn but all agriculture imports. A similar drop in wheat and alfalfa prices occurred earlier in 2013, when GMO strains of both alfalfa and wheat were discovered in Washington and Oregon.
Sixteen Iowa farmers and businesses filed a GMO contamination lawsuit against Syngenta, seeking both punitive and monetary damages. The biotech company — which rivals Monsanto for a share of the genetically modified seed market — is based in Switzerland, but also has operations in Iowa.
Previous legal filings against Syngenta, combined with the current GMO corn lawsuit, now mean that the company faces court challenges from 100 commodity traders and farmers – including Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill.
Corn imports to China had been a growing market, especially in the fall of 2013, due to a lackluster corn crop in the Asian country. American farmers had reportedly experienced a “record harvest” of their corn crops, a turn of events which growers thought would have proven good news on the global market.
“Syngenta has caused damages to U.S. farmers, grain handlers and exporters,” the lawsuit maintains. “Syngenta’s conduct in marketing, distributing and selling unapproved corn seed violates the legal standards of the marketplace because the primary market risk falls on U.S. farmers, grain handlers and exporters, not on Syngenta.”
The GMO lawsuits now filed against Syngenta claim that the biotech company was negligent because it “prematurely” sold GMO seed before it was approved by nations that serve as major markets for United States corn farmers.
Syngenta representative Paul Minehart said the GMO corn lawsuits “are without merit,” and added that he “strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and their profitability.”
The rejected GMO corn shipment weighed approximately 60,000 tons. The United States has historically been the world’s top corn exporter, sending nearly 20 percent of the annual harvest outside of the country annually.
In 2010, the same China-owned trading bureau also rejected a U.S. corn shipment after traces of “unapproved GMO” were found. Corn prices in China reportedly are about 20 percent higher than U.S.-grown corn, due to the government’s decision to stockpile more of the crop in an effort to “support farmers.” China is slated to import a record of seven million tons of corn during the current growing season, according to USDA figures.
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