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Harvest Public Media
Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Possible Class-Action in Seed Case Could Include Most US Corn Growers

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Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media
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In 2013, China discovered in U.S. corn a genetically engineered trait that, although permitted in the U.S., had not yet been approved in China.

Hundreds of lawsuits against seed company Syngenta could develop into a major class-action potentially involving almost every corn farmer in the country.

In 2013, China rejected certain American imports because they contained corn grown from Viptera seeds, a Syngenta product with a new genetically engineered trait. The trait was approved for sale in the United States, but China’s regulators had not yet approved it, though they have since.

China is a huge market for U.S. corn, so when regulators rejected some imports it shook the markets. Lawyers have filed cases on behalf of farmers in state and federal courts. They want Syngenta to compensate farmers for lost sales, alleging that the company should be held responsible for its non-approved trait contaminating loads of corn that China otherwise would have accepted.

Many of those lawyers are preparing to ask for the cases to be certified as a class-action lawsuit, according to court documents. A class-action could include “virtually every corn farmer in America,” the court documents say.

Right now, farmers have to file their own individual claims. If a class-action is certified by the court, they would automatically be included if they meet the definition of the class, unless they choose to opt out.

If damages are ultimately awarded, each farmer would still need to file the necessary paperwork individually.

Syngenta denies any wrongdoing and in a statement said:

“Syngenta believes the Viptera China lawsuits lack any merit because American farmers have the right to access safe, effective, U.S.-approved technologies like Agrisure Viptera.  Once a genetically engineered 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.”

A class-action that results in an award of damages could cost Syngenta significantly more than if the cases are heard separately. While it’s unlikely every single corn farmer would seek compensation, a class-action would likely result in far more claims than if they were brought individually.