The lawsuit against Syngenta is moving forward after Federal U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum denied the company's motion to dismiss the case on Sept. 11.
A series of lawsuits were raised against the company after it released a corn seed that had not yet been approved for sale in China. Traces of the seed Agrisure
Viptera MIR162, which was designed to be resistant to insects like the corn borer and corn rootworm, were found in shipments of U.S. corn to China in June of 2013. As a result, China to shut down all imports of U.S. corn forcing the bushel prices down from $7 to $3.30, the Fulton Sun previously reported.
The suits are designed to help farmers recover what they lost as a result of the decrease in bushel price.
"Syngenta ought to make it right to these farmers," Don Downing, an attorney at Gray, Ritter and Graham, said. "They cost us the Chinese market."
Lungstrum rejected Syngenta's two key arguments against the suits. Syngenta had received approval for the seed from the USDA, which the company believed meant immunity against lawsuits, Downing said. The company had been warned that the seed had not
yet been approved for exports to China, but moved forward with its release into the Chinese market. Syngenta also argued that it had no obligation to protect the farmers, exporters and others in the industry who were harmed from the ban, according to a press release.
The Court made an additional observation based on allegations in the complaint: "'[t]his case.... involves a risk of harm to other participants in an inter-connected market, participants whom Syngenta has appeared to embrace as stakeholders, and thus who are especially vulnerable to the wrongful acts alleged by plaintiffs,'" according to the press release.
Watts Guerra Attorney Linda Liebfarth speculated that more than 400,000 farmers were affect- ed and more than 20,000 had filed lawsuits against Syngenta as of early August, the Fulton Sun previously reported. Estimates of the economic damages in 2014 ranged from $1 billion to $2.9
billion, according to the press release. However, Downing said the damages could be higher since the price of corn is still being affected by the 2013 Chinese ban on U.S. corn imports.
"At the end of the day Syngenta should never have commercial- ized the seeds," Downing said. "After it caused the loss they should have approached the
farmers, apologized and offered to fix the problem, but they haven't offered anything."
Syngenta is now in the process of providing documentation for discovery requests while lawyers take depositions from Syngenta employees. Downing expects litigation will take a few years before the company is taken to trial.