The debate over GMOs – genetically-modified organisms – isn’t just about consumer health.
It’s also about the lengths GMO companies will go to make money, even if it means hurting American farmers.
Take Syngenta, a Swiss maker of genetically-modified corn. In a relentless pursuit of profit at all costs, Syngenta sold two strains of genetically modified corn (Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade) to American farmers without the approval of one of our biggest export markets for corn: China.
Syngenta broadly marketed Viptera and Duracade corn to farmers across the United States, knowing that the corn containing the unapproved traits would be commingled with all other corn in the commodity corn system so that every shipment of corn bound for export markets would contain corn with those traits.
In 2013, China began rejecting shipments American corn because those shipments contained the unapproved traits Syngenta had broadly marketed.
The result: thanks to Syngenta, American farmers lost access to the Chinese market. The resulting decrease in demand for American corn led to a drop in the price that American farmers received for every bushel of corn they sold. It is estimated that American corn farmers lost more than $5 Billion. All while Syngenta profited.
But they wouldn’t be off the hook for long.
Syngenta Falls in the First of Several Lawsuits
Understandably, corn farmers in Kansas had had enough.
Hare Wynn’s own Scott Powell, working with attorneys from three other firms, represented a class of over 7,000 Kansas corn farmers in a recent trial in Kansas.
They explained that Syngenta’s negligence resulted in serious economic harm and the loss of a major market for their product. They pointed to the price of corn dropping as a result of Syngenta’s negligence. They shared stories of loss, hardship, and betrayal.
The jury in their case saw the facts and listened to their stories, and in the end, delivered a historic verdict in the form of a $217.7 million award for the Kansas growers.
The lead attorneys released a statement after the verdict, saying, “This is only the beginning. We look forward to pursuing justice for thousands more corn farmers in the months ahead.”
Class actions for farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota, and Ohio have been certified and set for trial in 2018. Syngenta may have realized short-term profit from their negligence, but a partnership between attorneys and fed-up farmers will result in justice served against a corporation that saw only dollar signs instead of real American families.
The lesson from this first trial is clear: when big corporations hurt American citizens, the legal system can ensure that justice is delivered. By joining forces, the 7,000 victorious farmers in Kansas – and thousands more whose turn at justice will come – demonstrated the power of the citizen to fight back – and win.
Tremendous economic damage was done by Switzerland-based Syngenta when the big corporation knowingly sold genetically modified strains of corn to American farmers before the corn was approved by China. The two strains, Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade, were rejected by China in 2013 after MIR162 – a genetic trait found in Viptera – was detected in the corn. At that point, MIR162 was not approved by China, but Syngenta didn’t bother to wait on the country’s approval before selling the corn to the U.S.
Because China is a major importer of United States corn, the blow to American farmers was crushing. The rejection of corn shipments resulted in massive losses totaling about $5 billion for farmers across the country – while Syngenta came out on top, letting the farmers take the fall for their corporate negligence.
But then the tables turned.
The Farmers Fight Back – and Win Big
Plaintiffs from Kansas filed a lawsuit against Syngenta in the first of eight such lawsuits. One of the attorneys who represented them was Hare Wynn’s own Scott Powell. After deliberation that lasted half a day, the jury awarded $217,700,000 in compensatory damages to more than 7,000 Kansas corn farmers – and lawsuits in other states will be on the docket soon.
The four attorneys who represented the plaintiffs – Don Downing of Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., Patrick Stueve of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, William Chaney of Gray Reed & McGraw LLP, and of course, Hare Wynn’s Scott Powell – issued a statement about the outcome:
“The verdict is great news for corn farmers in Kansas and corn growers throughout the country who were seriously hurt by Syngenta’s actions. This is only the beginning. We look forward to pursuing justice for thousands more corn farmers in the months ahead.”
Hare Wynn Is Dedicated to Justice
Fighting for the rights of those who have been victimized by negligence or recklessness is what we do best, and we are honored to have played a role in the Kansas farmers’ victory. Stay tuned for news on future verdicts in ongoing Syngenta litigation.