$218 Million Verdict – First GMO Trial Against Syngenta

By: Seeger on June 23, 2017

Following a three-week trial, a federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas today ordered Swiss agrochemical giant Syngenta AG to pay $217.7 million in compensatory damages—the entire amount asked for—to a certified class of thousands of Kansas farmers who claimed the company’s genetically modified pest-resistant Viptera seed had been prematurely commercialized before the company secured the seed trait’s approval from authorities in China, one of the largest importers of U.S. corn.

Syngenta’s aggressive and premature introduction of Viptera resulted in the GMO seed trait’s widespread infiltration into the U.S. corn supply and to China’s 2013 embargo of U.S. corn, causing a sharp drop in corn prices paid to U.S. corn farmers.  About 1.4 million metric tons of U.S. corn were barred, excluding the U.S. almost entirely from the Chinese market, the fastest-growing market in the world. As a result, the average price of U.S. corn dropped by 20% and corn futures plummeted by 15%.

The Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta, a competitor of Monsanto Co., is currently completing its $43 billion acquisition by the state-owned China National Chemical Corp. It said it intends to appeal the verdict.

The win in the Kansas City, Kansas federal court gives backwind to a host of similar lawsuits against Syngenta by farmers from more than 20 states. Eight statewide classes, including the Kansas class that prevailed today, have already been certified, and there are at least 13 other classes that plaintiffs’ counsel in the centralized federal multidistrict litigation will seek to have the court certify.

Court-appointed Class Counsel Don M. Downing, Patrick J. Stueve, Scott Powell, Bill Chaney and William B. Chaney lead the trial team. Seeger Weiss LLP partners Stephen A. Weiss, who serves on the court-appointed MDL Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee, and Diogenes P. Kekatos have been central to the prosecution of the class plaintiffs’ claims throughout this litigation, including the class certification proceedings, pretrial discovery, and summary judgment motion practice.

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