A major trial started Monday in Kansas City, Kan., that has farmers accusing Swiss agriculture giant Syngenta AG of hurting the domestic market for corn when it introduced a strain of corn seed in the U.S. that the Chinese government for years would not accept for import.
The KCK trial consolidated thousands of cases brought by farmers who are prepared to argue that their damages could reach $5.77 billion as a result of using Syngenta’s corn seed.
Syngenta maintains that the domestic corn market was not harmed by China’s decision to stop importing corn grown with one of its seed products.
Syngenta sold a strain of corn seed in the U.S. called Viptera in 2010, a genetically-modified corn seed product.
The U.S. allowed the use of Syngenta’s products in 2010. China, meanwhile, had to approve the import of corn grown with genetically-modified corn seed. Syngenta told farmers that China would accept corn crops for import for the 2011 harvest.
China ultimately stopped accepting imports of U.S. corn grown with Viptera in 2013.
Farmers suing Syngenta said the company should have known that China, a major importer of U.S. corn, might not approve the product. Without a significant trade partner, the plaintiffs have alleged, the market for corn cratered.
Syngenta has argued, according to court records, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with the governments of nearly 50 other countries found that corn grown with its seed was safe and effective. It adds that the availability of biotech seeds has succeeded in expanding the the U.S. corn market by billions of dollars.
Local law firms involved in the Syngenta litigation include Stueve Siegel Hanson as lead and liaison counsel for the plaintiffs and Berkowitz Oliver as liaison counsel for Syngenta.