WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2015 – In the latest twist of a long-running legal battle, biotech giant Syngenta says grain companies have only themselves to blame for the market share lost in China over shipments that contained unapproved corn varieties.

The filing, a third-party complaint filed by Syngenta Thursday in U.S. district court in Kansas, contends that Cargill, ADM, Express Grain Terminal, and Rail Transfer Inc. are responsible for the comingling of the corn with the Viptera and Duracade traits.

U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum ruled in September that farmers and other stakeholders could continue pursuing some of their claims against Syngenta due to the inter-connected nature of the corn market. Syngenta may be responsible for the “timing, manner, and scope” of the commercialization of the two seed varieties in question and making sure that putting those varieties to market would not prove costly, he wrote. 

The producer lawsuit stems from lost Chinese market share after exports of U.S. corn to the country were shut down due to China’s lack of approval of the Viptera (MIR 162) product.

Syngenta had received approval to sell Viptera and Duracade seed in the United States, but China took about four years before approving Viptera in December 2014, and Duracade is still awaiting approval.

In its latest filing, Syngenta says it disagrees with Lungstrum’s September ruling and will continue to fight it, but “if any such duty exists, the duty properly falls most squarely on the shoulders of the actors in the industry who actually accomplish the commingling that disperses a GM trait in the corn supply—namely, on the grain elevators, shippers, and exporters who commingle commodity corn together.”

The complaint notes that the grain handlers in question “have made no attempt to segregate corn, including Viptera corn, based on the traits it contained and the countries where those traits had been approved.”

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In a statement, a Syngenta spokesman said the lawsuits from producers and grain handlers “lack any merit.”

“Once a genetically engineered (GE) trait is approved for sale by federal authorities in the United States, it is entirely lawful to sell that GE seed in the United States,” the spokesman said. “If any duty exists to restrict U.S.-approved GE traits solely because they have not been approved by a foreign government, then it is grain exporters and other grain traders who are responsible for handling the grain that they process and transport, and who make their own decisions over what they will and will not ship outside the U.S. “

In response to Syngenta’s latest filing, Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said in an email to Agri-Pulse that “Syngenta’s commercialization practices and conduct are responsible for the industry’s damages.”

According to a study by the National Grain and Feed Association, U.S. producers and exporters lost an estimated $2.9 billion due to the uncertain trade environment in China.


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