American growers are seeking $5 billion in damages over un-exportable grain.
Whether genetically-modified crops can be problematic for the environment may still be a topic of some debate. But if you’re wondering if GMOs can be problematic from a business standpoint, many US corn farmers would answer with a resounding “yes.” And now, a huge string of lawsuits has begun as farmers seek damages from the company that sold them these headache-inducing genetically-modified corn seeds, Syngenta.
The problem stems not from the seeds themselves, but from the approval process behind them. According to Modern Farmer, in 2010, the USDA approved a new genetically-modified corn seed from Syngenta known as “Viptera.” The following year, the Swiss agribusiness started selling these seeds to US farmers – which in theory, shouldn’t have been a problem, but according to the plaintiffs currently suing Syngenta, the company told farmers that Viptera would also be approved in China in time to sell that year’s crops overseas. Instead, China didn’t approve this corn until 2014, and even worse, in the meantime, fearing cross-contamination, China decided to block American corn entirely.
As a result, Syngenta is now facing tens of thousands of lawsuits seeking compensation for the estimated $5 billion in economic damages the plaintiffs’ experts suggest this whole muck-up may have caused. For its part, Syngenta’s lawyer says the company didn’t do anything wrong and that it’s being blamed in part for market forces that were out of its control.
Regardless, this case serves as a reminder that the world of GMOs is even more complicated than the already complicated science behind these crops. As different countries take difference stances with GMOs, political factors come into play as well. And of course, a lot of money is on the table, too. According to Phys.org, Syngenta invested 15 years and over $100 million developing Viptera. Depending on these lawsuits, it could end up costing them even more.