Farmers Win Kansas Viptera Case

Syngenta says it will appeal a recent verdict awarding thousands of Kansas farmers nearly $218 million in a lawsuit linked to the company’s 2011 introduction of Agrisure Viptera corn seed before Chinese approval.  

The late-June decision impacts around 7,300 Kansas farmers. It is the first of many similar suits against Syngenta alleging its introduction of MIR162 prior to Chinese import approval caused farmers to lose money when the Chinese rejected billions of bushels of corn in 2013 after detecting the trait. The lawsuits allege the Chinese rejection ushered in a period of depressed corn prices that impacted all U.S. corn growers because the country ceased corn imports following the initial rejection.

“The verdict is great news for corn farmers in Kansas and corn growers throughout the country who were seriously hurt by Syngenta’s actions,” lawyers representing the Kansas farmers said after the verdict. “We look forward to pursuing justice for thousands more corn farmers in the months ahead,” according to the Alabama-based law firm Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton.

Syngenta, whose sale to Chinese-owned ChemChina gained final U.S. approval, says the suit is without merit. Prior to launch, Viptera was approved by the U.S. and what the company called “key import markets” at the time, and China was not one of them, Syngenta says.

“We are disappointed in the verdict because it will only serve to deny American farmers access to future technologies even when they are fully approved in the U.S.,” Syngenta said after the verdict. 

An Ohio court in June dismissed a lawsuit brought by Poet’s Fostoria Ethanol plant. “This court is not persuaded by any reasoning ... that progress and development in agriculture ... should be delayed or put on hold until the government of China, or any other foreign government, so approves of a product,” Judge Steve C. Shuff wrote.

The federal class-action trial in Kansas will be followed in August by a similar case in Minnesota state court. Bloomberg News reports several other cases pending across the U.S. collectively represent some 350,000 corn growers claiming as much as $13 billion in damages based generally on the same allegations. Those states with pending class actions are Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota. Farmers in 13 other states are seeking class-action certification.