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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Syngenta Sues Major Grain Traders as Viptera Corn Dispute Mounts

Swiss seed and pesticide giant, Syngenta AG, is suing several large grain traders, including Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill, claiming that the traders should be responsible for losses incurred by U.S. farmers when China rejected corn shipments containing Syngenta’s genetically modified Viptera corn strain.

The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas on November 19, is a continuation of a legal dispute that erupted last year when U.S. farmers and grain companies sued Syngenta, claiming that the company should be made to compensate them for lost income and the resulting crash in corn prices that resulted from China rejecting corn shipments that contained Syngenta’s yet unapproved corn strain.

“We don’t think there is any liability here, but to the extent there is, at a minimum, the lion’s share of the duty falls on the grain trade,” said Michael Jones, a lawyer for Kirkland & Ellis LLP representing Syngenta in the matter, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Last year, Cargill filed suit against Syngenta claiming that Syngenta’s decision to market their Viptera corn prior to receiving regulatory approval from China has resulted in a loss of $90 million to the company. Other grain traders, including ADM soon followed, filing suits against Syngenta.

Syngenta has defended its decision to market the seed, claiming that the move was entirely transparent and legal, and offered farmers an important means of production that resists crop pests.

In September, the judge handling the farmers’ lawsuit brought against Syngenta, ruled that their case may advance, ruling that the farmers do have a viable claim against the seed company regarding its responsibility to ensure that its biotech products cause no harm to other companies in the “interconnected” U.S. corn industry.

If it is concluded that U.S. farmers are due compensation, Syngenta’s lawsuit claims that the traders named in the suit – Cargill, ADM, and two smaller traders– should be responsible for either a portion or all of the liability. Moving forward, Syngenta could extend the list of grain companies and traders named in the suit.

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