ADM sues Syngenta over stewardship of G.M.O. corn

by Jeff Gelski
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CHICAGO — Archer Daniels Midland Co. has filed a lawsuit alleging Syngenta’s lack of stewardship practices for a bioengineered/genetically modified corn trait played a role in China rejecting U.S. corn shipments. China said corn with the trait, which the country has not approved, was commingled with other U.S. corn.

“These rejections have resulted in very substantial losses to U.S. exporters who have had their shipments to China turned away, including tens of millions of dollars in damages to ADM,” Chicago-based ADM said in the lawsuit filed Nov. 19 in the 29th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Charles in Louisiana.

The lawsuit involves the genetically modified trait MIR162, which Syngenta developed, patented and introduced into the U.S. market. Minneapolis-based Cargill on Sept. 12 filed a similar lawsuit against Syngenta in a Louisiana state court. The ADM lawsuit pits the company vs. Syngenta Corp., Syngenta Seeds, Inc. and Syngenta Crop Protection, L.L.C. The lawsuit asks for a jury trial.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted non-regulated status to MIR162 corn on April 9, 2010, according to the ADM lawsuit.

While MIR162 has received approval in other export markets, China has yet to approve it. China during the 2011-12 season purchased about 203 million bus of corn from the United States to account for about 13% of the total U.S. corn export market, according to National Corn Growers Association data cited in the ADM lawsuit.

In 2010 Agrisure Viptera became the first corn with the MIR162 trait entered into the U.S. market.

“Syngenta took no significant actions to implement a reasonable stewardship program for MIR162 corn,” the lawsuit said.

With regard to Agrisure Viptera, the ADM lawsuit alleges Syngenta failed to prevent cross-pollination by failing to require farmers to use such methods as planting border rows, using natural barriers like trees and other vegetation, and planting crops a certain distance from one another. The lawsuit also alleges Syngenta failed to prevent commingling by failing to require farmers use certain strategies. Cleaning planting equipment and flushing combines before they were used with Viptera corn were given as examples as was cleaning bin floors before storing Viptera corn in the bins.

Syngenta in 2014 introduced Agrisure Duracade, another corn with the MIR162 trait. The lawsuit alleges Syngenta gave a set of “recommendations” to farmers on how to avoid cross-pollination and commingling, but the farmers were not “required” to follow them. The recommendations included border rows, routine cleaning of equipment, harvesting Duracade corn separately from other corn, maintaining separate storage facilities for Duracade, and delivering Duracade to a pre-approved handler, according to the lawsuit.

ADM filed the lawsuit in Louisiana because of grain terminals in the state. When ADM exports crops and other agricultural products out of the United States, the majority of its shipments depart from terminals in Louisiana.

Syngenta released the same statement in response to the ADM lawsuit that it did in response to the Cargill lawsuit: “Syngenta believes that the lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and their profitability. The Agrisure Viptera trait (MIR162) was approved for cultivation in the U.S. in 2010.

“Syngenta commercialized the trait in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements. Syngenta also obtained import approval from major corn importing countries. Syngenta has been fully transparent in commercializing the trait over the last four years. During this time Agrisure Viptera has demonstrated major benefits for growers, preventing significant yield and grain quality losses resulting from damage by a broad spectrum of lepidopteran pests.”
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