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What Syngenta is Saying About Viptera Lawsuit

If you’re a Midwestern farmer, chances are you’ve received notice from one or more law firms about a lawsuit against Syngenta regarding Agrisure Viptera corn. Last week, we caught up with Duane Martin, Syngenta commercial traits manager, about the Swiss firm’s take on the lawsuits.

* Back in 2010, Martin says Syngenta launched the Viptera trait with full regulatory and legal compliance. The Viptera trait controls above-ground corn pests including European corn borer. 

 “When the trait was launched, we conferred with stakeholders to identify key export markets for U.S. corn. At that time, the industry did not consider China to be a key market for U.S. corn,” he says. 

So, Syngenta decided to launch Viptera. At the time, Chinese approval for corn containing the Viptera trait had not occurred. 

* In November 2013, China halted imports of U.S. corn after detecting traces of Viptera in imported U.S. corn. The lawsuits filed against Syngenta claim this caused U.S. corn prices to drop. Syngenta officials disagree, saying corn prices were already dropping before China rejected the load. Instead, Martin says U.S. corn responded to a change in the supply and demand situation, and not the Chinese situation. 

* Syngenta has filed a court motion to dismiss the lawsuits.

“The judge has heard both sides of the story,” Martin says. “I would say in the next several weeks, expect some type of announcement on the motion to dismiss.”

* In the meantime, Syngenta is telling its side of the story to farmers.

“We find as we present the facts to growers and answer their questions, they are supporting our case,” he says.

* China has not yet granted approval of Syngenta’s new Duracade trait that contains a corn rootworm resistant trait. It is being funneled to non-export end users through an arrangement with Gavilon Grain, Omaha, Nebraska. “That grain never has a chance to enter the export channel,” Martin says. 

U.S. farmers planted around 200,000 acres of Duracade corn in 2015, a level that Martin expects to remain constant in 2016. 

* Martin worries about the effect the Chinese Viptera situation may have on transgenic technology in general—a technology that often entails $130 million over 10 years to develop a transgenic trait. “It do think there is potential to have a severe impact on the introduction of new traits,” he says. 

* If you’ve signed your name on a lawsuit against Syngenta, you have no fear of retribution by the firm against you if the lawsuit is thrown out of court or if your side loses, says Martin.

“There will be no retribution against those farmers,” says Martin. After talking with some farmers involved in these lawsuits, Syngenta officials say they may have been misled by some of the attorneys filing the lawsuit in some cases. 

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