Syngenta Trial Set

Viptera Class-Action Case in June

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Legal action over market access issues associated with Syngenta's Agrisure Viptera corn continues to move forward. (DTN file photo by Pam Smith)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The first trial in a number of class-action lawsuits against Syngenta over the release of Viptera corn, has been set for June 5 in a federal court in Kansas City, Kansas.

A court order was issued Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.

Syngenta genetically engineered MIR162 corn under the brand name Agrisure Viptera to control above-ground pests.

Syngenta is dealing with multiple lawsuits claiming the company should have inspected and prevented harvested Viptera (MIR 162) corn from being shipped to China in 2013 and 2014. Plaintiffs in the case allege Syngenta sold Agrisure Viptera and Duracade (a separate trait to control corn rootworm), causing significant losses to corn farmers across the country.

All farmers in the United States who priced corn for sale after Nov. 18, 2013, were approved last fall as a major class in the ongoing lawsuit.

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Omaha attorney Donald Swanson told DTN the scheduling of the first trial is "significant because it shows that Judge (John) Lungstrum is serious about moving the Syngenta case along expeditiously." Swanson is an attorney with Omaha-based Koley Jessen PC, who has followed and written about the case for Iowa State's Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.

The claims by this particular class of Kansas farmers is they are entitled to recover damages because Syngenta violated the false advertising sections of the Lanham Act by misrepresenting the status, timing and importance of Chinese approval of MIR162, according to the court order.

Further, they allege Syngenta was "negligent in the timing, scope and manner" in which it commercialized Viptera and Duracade.

"Based upon data available to plaintiffs' damages experts as of the date of their most recent reports, those damages are up to $5.77 billion for the nationwide class and up to $235.4 million for the Kansas class," the court order said.

Numerous other Syngenta trials also will be scheduled in the Kansas court, in a Minnesota state court and in other courts as well.

In an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit last year, Syngenta argued the lower court judge erred in setting a nationwide class of farmers because that would include farmers not actually harmed by the release.

The court fights began for Syngenta after developing MIR162 genetic traits marketed under the brand name Viptera. USDA deregulated Viptera in 2010. Syngenta moved ahead to commercially sell the seeds even though they have not been approved in China. In November 2013, China began rejecting any U.S. corn exports that tested positive for MIR162.

The official lawsuits filed on behalf of corn producers include cases in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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Todd Neeley