Monsanto settles with wheat farmers in seven states

by Jeff Gelski
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ST. LOUIS – Monsanto Co. and wheat farmers in seven states have reached a settlement that will resolve a number of lawsuits related to a discovery of bioengineered/genetically-modified wheat in Oregon and subsequent temporary limits on certain exports of soft white wheat.

The wheat farmers are from Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Monsanto, without any admission of liability, will donate $50,000 to the agricultural school at each state. Monsanto also will reimburse plaintiffs and their counsel for a portion of their out-of-pocket costs and fees associated with the litigation.

“Rather than paying the costs of protracted litigation, this agreement puts that money to work in research and development efforts for the wheat industry,” said Kyle McClain, chief litigation counsel for St. Louis-based Monsanto.  “Resolution in this manner is reasonable and in the best interest of all of the parties.”

Patrick Pendley of Pendley, Boudin & Coffin, L.L.P. in Plaquemine, La., and interim lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said,  “We believe this is a unique and fair mechanism for resolving the claims of midwest and southeast wheat farmers. The settlement fairly and equitably resolves our clients’ claims in a manner that will benefit all wheat industry farmers in the states receiving donations.”

The settlement does not resolve claims filed by wheat growers in Arkansas. Those claims remain pending.

The lawsuits involve bioengineered wheat, which is not allowed in the United States, found on a farm in eastern Oregon in May 2013. The wheat was developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup. Monsanto in May of 2013 said its field testing of its Roundup Ready wheat variety had ended nine years before the bioengineering discovery in Oregon.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sept. 26, 2014, said it had concluded the presence of the bioengineered wheat appeared to be an isolated incident.

Monsanto on Nov. 12, 2014, said it had reached agreement with soft white wheat farmers in the Pacific Northwest that resolved a number of lawsuits over the incident. Without admission of liability, Monsanto agreed to pay $250,000 to wheat growers’ associations and to put $2.125 million into a settlement fund to pay farmers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho who sold soft white wheat between May 30, 2013, and Nov. 30, 2013.
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