Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct14/04)
16 October 2014
Third World Network
sued for $1 billion over China's rejection of GM corn
Published in SUNS #7894 dated 15 October 2014
London, 13 Oct (Mae-Wan Ho*) -- US corn prices plummeted as China
rejected all shipments containing traces of Syngenta's MIR162. Farmers
from 5 major corn growing states have filed 3 class action lawsuits
against Syngenta, claiming damages of more than $1 billion**.
[** See "Billion-dollar lawsuits claim GMO corn ‘destroyed' US
export to China", RT Question More, 6 October 2014, http://rt.com/usa/193612-china-lawsuits-gmo-corn/
. See also ‘Farmers Sue Syngenta'. Chemical & Engineering News,
13 October 2014, http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i41/Farmers-Sue-Syngenta.html]
Syngenta released MIR162, trade name Agrisure Vipera, in 2009. It
is engineered to make a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein vip3Aa20
toxic to lepidopteran insect pests (butterflies and moths) [Event
Name: MIR162, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Applications, accessed 13 October 2014, http://www.isaaa.org/gmapprovaldatabase/event/default.asp?EventID=130],
and also has a gene pmi (phosphomannose isomerase) from E. coli to
allow positive selection for the transgene.
It was created with Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated plant transformation,
a particularly hazardous vector system that risks further horizontal
gene transfer (see ‘Ban GMOs Now', ISIS Special Report available at
While MIR162 is approved for use in the US, China has not allowed
its import into the country.
Syngenta is blamed for destroying the export of US corn to China,
which led to depressed prices for domestic corn, according to Volnek
Farms, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Omaha, Nebraska
federal court. The two other suits were filed in Iowa and Illinois
None of the farmers involved in the lawsuits planted MIR162 seed in
their fields in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. But
their harvested crop was contaminated with traces of the transgenic
trait, and hence unsalable to the Chinese market.
Although Viptera has been planted on only about 3% of US farm acreage,
it is difficult to say for sure "that any shipments of US corn
will not be contaminated with trace amounts of MIR162", the Nebraska
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) had encouraged Syngenta
to stop selling Viptera, according to the Iowa claim. The NGFA estimated
that actions taken in China against US corn have caused prices to
drop by 11 cents per bushel.
The Iowa suit also claims that the release of Syngenta's Viptera caused
the US-to-China export market to drop by 85%. Nebraska plaintiffs,
too, accuse Syngenta of having crippled the 2013-14 corn export market
The NGFA reported in April 2014 that China had barred nearly 1.45
million tons of corn shipments since 2013.
In 2011, Syngenta requested in federal court that a grain elevator
firm, Bunge North America, to remove its signs that said it would
not accept Vipera corn. The request was denied.
Concern over the safety of GM food may have played a role in a recent
decision by China's officials to move away from GM production.
In August, China's Ministry of Agriculture announced it would not
continue with GM rice and corn ["End of the line: GMO production
in China halted", RT Question More, 21 August, 2014, http://rt.com/news/181860-gm-china-rice-stopped/].
[* Dr Mae-Wan Ho is the co-founder and director of the Institute of
Science in Society (ISIS), an independent, not-for-profit organisation
founded in 1999 and dedicated to providing critical public information
on cutting-edge science, and to promoting social accountability and
ecological sustainability in science. Since 1994, she has been scientific
advisor to the Third World Network. This article was first published
on the ISIS website and can be found at: http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Syngenta_Sued_for_$1_billion.php]