In 2010, Syngenta began selling a genetically modified corn seed with the brand name “Agrisure
Viptera” (also called just “Viptera”), which included a new insect-resistant genetic trait called
“MIR 162.” In 2013, Syngenta began selling another genetically-modified corn seed brand-named
“Agrisure Duracade,” (also called just “Duracade”), which included both the MIR 162 trait and a
new insect-resistant trait known as “Event 5307.”Corn Producers, Ethanol Production Facilities, and Grain Handling Facilities filed lawsuits against Syngenta claiming that Syngenta sold Viptera and Duracade corn seed before it should have because the MIR 162 and Event 5307 genetically modified traits contained in those seeds had not yet received import approval in China.
The lawsuits argue that Syngenta should have waited to sell those seeds until it had obtained import approval in China and that Syngenta did not take reasonable steps to ensure that the seed was sold in a manner that corn harvested from Viptera and Duracade seed did not contaminate portions of the United States (“U.S.”) corn supply exported to China. The lawsuits claimed that China began rejecting shipments of U.S. corn after allegedly detecting Viptera traits in shipments from the U.S., causing the U.S. corn industry to lose access to the Chinese market and resulting in lower corn prices. Syngenta denies that it did anything wrong, in part because before Viptera and Duracade were made available to U.S. farmers, the traits in those products were approved as safe and effective by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and all of the historical U.S. trading partners for corn.
Syngenta argues that China historically was not a reliable and consistent importer of U.S. corn when the company launched Viptera and Duracade, and that in any event it was exporters—not Syngenta—that sent U.S. corn to China knowing that Viptera and Duracade were not yet approved there. Syngenta also states that the price drop in corn in 2013 was not the result of China’s rejection of U. S. corn, but rather was the product of a worldwide bumper crop of corn. Both the MIR 162 and Event 5307 traits now do have Chinese approval.