NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The Archer Daniels Midland Company sued the developer of a genetically modified corn, accusing the company of intentionally stymieing United States exports to China.
In a lawsuit filed in the St. Charles Parish District Court in Louisiana, ADM says Syngenta Corporation sold GMO corn seed to farmers across the U.S. without undertaking reasonable “stewardship” practices designed to ensure genetically-modified seeds do not taint or become intermixed with the regular corn seed supply.
As a result, China has rejected the “vast majority of U.S. corn shipments” because of the presence of Syngenta’s GMO MIR162, which has become intermixed with regular corn seed.
Those safeguards are critical because China, a major importer of corn from the U.S., has not approved genetically-modified corn containing Syngenta’s MIR162 genetic trait, and won’t accept shipments containing so much as a trace of GMO corn.
Syngenta’s seed is sold under the brand names Viptera and Duracade.
According to ADM, which owns 200 grain elevators across the United States, Syngenta’s actions have cost corn exporters tens of millions of dollars in lost profits.
Until recently China had been a significant purchaser of U.S. grown corn, and Archer Daniels Midland Company sold and exported substantial volumes of corn to China. China is the second-largest corn consumer in the world.
The regular corn crop has been tainted as a result of cross-pollination, where the wind has blown pollen containing MIR162 onto fields where regular corn is planted, and also by channeling, where the modified corn is combined with regular corn at processing facilities.
Once it became apparent that MIR162 corn was tainting the regular corn supply, Syngenta was warned but took no measures to quarantine its crop which made $875 million in 2013 alone, the lawsuit says.
Archer Daniels Midland Company filed the lawsuit in St. Charles Parish because that where its two largest export grain terminals and elevators are located.
The U.S. is one of the world’s top corn exporters. In 2013, the U.S. exported 18.3 million metric tons of corn. That same year, China consumed roughly 24.5 percent of the world’s corn, making it the second largest corn consumer in the world and the third largest purchaser of U.S. exported corn.
When Syngenta’s GMO corn was approved by the USDA, Syngenta had promised to follow strict guidelines, and to force farmers to also follow guidelines, to ensure the MIR162 crop did not comingle with other crops.
But forcing farmers to participate in a stewardship process when using its corn seed would have made the seed less desirable, so Syngenta didn’t require it, the lawsuit says.
Additionally, Syngenta could have asked grain elevator operators to keep its corn separate so it wouldn’t intermingle with and taint regular corn, but Syngenta didn’t. Instead, Syngenta actually encouraged the cross-pollination of its GMO corn with regular crops by telling farmers to grow GMO and regular corn side by side, according to the lawsuit.
Until recently, Syngenta had a document on its website that purported to be an approval from the Chinese government of MIR126 to encourage corn seed buyers to believe China had finally approved the GMO when actually it has not.
As a result of Syngenta’s failure to implement reasonable stewardship actions, its genetically modified corn brands, Viptera and Duracade, have cross-pollinated with neighboring corn fields, including corn fields owned by farmers who did not purchase the GMO brands of seed. When the unknowing farmers sell their tainted corn at a grain elevator, MIR162 inadvertently enters the grain supply system.
After Archer Daniels Midland Company unknowingly purchased and comingled GMO corn with its grain supply, Archer Daniels Midland Company’s supply became tainted. This happened at all of Archer Daniels Midland Company’s 200 U.S. grain elevators, the company says.
As a result, corn Archer Daniels Midland Company has attempted to export to China has been refused by the Chinese government.
The parties did not reply to emailed requests for comment.
Archer Daniels Midland Company seeks damages for negligence and violations of the unfair trade practices and consumer protection acts.
Named defendants are Syngenta Corporation, Syngenta Seeds Inc. and Syngenta Crop Protection LLC.
The lawsuit was filed by Glenn Goodier of Jones Walker LLP in New Orleans.
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