Syngenta’s GMO Corn Has Destroyed Exports to China; New Class Action Lawsuits Seek Billion Dollar Damages


A billion-dollar corn export market to China has been crippled because a large seed corn supplier released a genetically-engineered corn seed before it was approved by Beijing. U.S. corn farmers have filed class action lawsuits against Syngenta Corporation in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska federal courts. The lawsuits have been coordinated by Hausfeld LLP, a Washington, D.C. law firm. Hausfeld partner James Pizzirusso discusses the litigation in this report on LBN.

James Pizzirusso

James Pizzirusso

Pizzirusso explains that Syngenta developed a new genetically-modified corn seed, MIR162, that it heavily touted to corn farmers. Syngenta told farmers not to worry about approval from China, saying that it would come soon. And in any event, China was a minor export partner. Both statements turned out to be false.

Syngenta now suggests that approval by China won’t occur until 2016. At the time Syngenta was pitching its new seed variety, China was essentially our third largest export partner. If dried distiller grains, a byproduct of ethanol production, China is probably our largest market. And as of November, China had essentially stopped corn imports because American corn tends to be commingled. The only way China could be sure to avoid the GMO corn was to stop imports.

Pizzirusso explains that growers had other options, other kinds of corn they could have grown that would have been acceptable to China during the period when they were growing the unapproved GMO corn from Syngenta. Had Syngenta been candid about the situation, things might not be as bad as they are. Pizzirusso made it clear that the corn in question is grown for agricultural feed and for ethanol production.

The corn farmers who have been hurt by Syngenta’s actions are presently seeking about $1 billion in damages. Pizzirusso believes that number will only grow. He also notes that it will take several years for the unacceptable GMO grain to cycle through America’s corn storage facilities, making our corn acceptable again to China.

Pizzirusso points out that a number of countries, including many in Europe, are sensitive about the use of genetically-modified crops, and farmers are sensitive to that fact. The problem here is that Syngenta rushed to market and misrepresented facts to its customers.

James J. Pizzirusso is a partner in Hausfeld’s Washington, DC office. He has a diverse practice centering on consumer protection and unfair business practices (chair of practice group), antitrust law, environmental torts, and sports and entertainment law with a specific emphasis on royalties and copyright in the digital era. In addition to practicing law, James has served as a Visiting Professor at George Washington University Law School. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.