CHICAGO: A US federal jury on Friday ordered Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta to pay nearly $218 million to 7,000 Kansas farmers after selling them genetically-modified corn seeds not approved for export to China.
The farmers suffered profound economic damage in 2013 when Chinese authorities refused imports of corn grown with Syngenta’s bioengineered seeds, causing prices to plummet, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
“The verdict is great news for corn farmers in Kansas and corn growers throughout the country who were seriously hurt by Syngenta’s actions,” Pat Stueve, a lawyer for the farmers, said in a statement.
The jury in Kansas found Syngenta negligent in the matter, and awarded $217.7 million in compensation to the farmers, court papers showed. The company said the case is “without merit.”
The verdict came down after only a half day of deliberations, but covers only one of eight lawsuits targeting Syngenta over the matter, Stueve said.
“This is only the beginning. We look forward to pursuing justice for thousands more corn farmers in the months ahead.”
Other cases involve farmers in agricultural states such as Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Ohio, with nationwide losses exceeding $5 billion, he said.
The company said it was “disappointed” with the verdict and will appeal.
The ruling “will only serve to deny American farmers access to future technologies even when they are fully approved in the US,” adding that the two strains of corn seeds in the case had approval of US regulators and “in the key import markets recommended at the time by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and other industry associations.”
“American farmers shouldn’t have to rely on a foreign government to decide what products they can use on their farms,” the company said in a statement. AFP