Noble McIntyre on January 28, 2015
A corn lawsuit may sound like a frivolous concept, but for Oklahoma corn farmers, it’s a big deal. Huge producers Cargill and Trans Coastal Supply Co. Inc. have initiated lawsuits against Syngenta, a Swiss-based agribusiness that is accused of commercializing a GMO corn seed that is not yet approved for sale in China.
A “GMO” is a genetically modified organism. A GMO is any organism that has been altered by using genetic engineering. Sometimes, this takes place in food, but it can be done to other products, as well. While there’s a lot of sophisticated science behind the process of genetically modifying a food, crop or other product, the essence of the technique is that genes are mutated, inserted or deleted from a species in order to create a more useful product. Uses include producing human proteins for medicine, insulin to treat diabetes, biofuels and various enzymes that are used to manufacture processed foods. There are lots of reasons why companies grow GMO crops. One thing is that it makes the crops more resistant to insect pests, which means that the farmers can then use fewer pesticides, and some pesticides are known to be hazardous in human consumption. As well, GMOs can make foods more nutritious. Some GMOs are designed to boost a food’s vitamin or mineral content.
Opponents of GMO foods say that when a food is modified this way, it mixes or adds proteins that were not present in the original plant or animal. That means that it could cause new allergic reactions in people. Also, food can be genetically modified in ways that include antibiotic features. While this sounds like a good thing, it could mean that people’s bodies become more resistant to antibiotic medicines over time, and this would increase the likelihood of “superbugs” that are not able to be treated with antibiotics.
Syngenta produces genetically modified corn seeds, Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade. These seeds have a trait called MIR162, which had not been approved in China, which is a major market for U.S.-produced corn. Therefore, China would no longer accept U.S. corn shipments, and U.S.-produced corn prices are dropping rapidly. Corn farmers are suing Syngenta because they claim that the company should have known that all U.S. corn exports would be tainted and would prevent the corn from being sold outside of the country.
Just last month, China issued a safety certificate for MIR162, which means that U.S. corn is now allowed to enter the country. However, the corn farmers claim that Syngenta’s GMO seed cost them nearly $3 billion during the time when China would not accept it, and the lawsuit therefore still stands. The problem is, in addition to all of the money lost, China has also begun using alternatives to corn and the country is now buying sorghum and other alternative feed grains. That means that they no longer need to purchase the corn like they did before the ban. Syngenta was negligent because it did not ensure that the MIR 162-modified corn would be acceptable to markets worldwide.
If you’re an Oklahoma corn farmer who has experienced a loss because of dipping corn prices, give us a call. The McIntyre Law team is representing clients who have been harmed as a result of this big agribusiness failure. Call us today at (877) 917-5250.