(CN) - Tens of thousands of farmers, grain facilities and ethanol plants reached a $1.5 billion settlement Monday with agriculture giant Syngenta over claims related to the company’s genetically engineered corn.
Farmers in three 2014 class actions claimed that by releasing the variety before it was approved for export to China, Syngenta “destroyed the export of U.S. corn to China and caused depressed prices for all domestic corn.”
Other companies and farmers who do not even use genetically modified corn claim they were harmed by Syngenta’s “widespread contamination of the U.S. corn and corn seed supply with MIR162, which will continue to foreclose the U.S. export market to China in future years and will continue to lead to lower corn prices per bushel in the U.S. market, as a result.”
Viptera was released in 2009, and was engineered to protect corn plants against insects like the corn borer and corn rootworm. A second-generation version called Agrisure Duracade was distributed in 2014.
Syngenta has claimed that it was market forces, not China’s failure to approve the corn, that led to the drop in corn prices.
The plaintiffs in an Iowa class action claimed the release of Viptera led to an 85 percent drop in Chinese imports of U.S. corn.
Syngenta and the various plaintiffs entered into a $1.5 billion settlement agreement that was formally filed Monday in Kansas federal court.
The agreement still needs to be approved by a judge, but Syngenta has already agreed to create a fund to pay farmers and other agricultural workers who contracted to price corn or its byproducts after a certain date in 2013.
The settlement also establishes subclasses of corn producers, grain handlers and ethanol producers.
Attorneys representing the corn producers called the decision “an equitable result for all involved.”
"America's corn farmers and related businesses were hurt economically and this settlement will provide fair compensation for their damages," they said in a statement.
A Syngenta spokesman reportedly said that the settlement agreement does not constitute an admission about the merits of the allegations.
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