Syngenta Seeks to Settle GMO Corn Cases

By Jacob Bunge Features Dow Jones Newswires

Syngenta AG said it would settle thousands of lawsuits from U.S. farmers who alleged the Swiss agricultural giant's launch of genetically engineered corn seeds cost them money.

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Syngenta introduced a new variety of pest-resistant corn, called Agrisure Viptera, in 2011. The strain hadn't been approved by authorities in China, which in 2013 began rejecting U.S. corn shipments found to contain the Syngenta genes. U.S. farmers allege that the market for U.S. corn shrank as a result, weighing on prices and their incomes.

Syngenta said Tuesday that its proposed settlement with the farmers would "avoid the uncertainty of ongoing litigation." A Syngenta spokesman said it was too early to comment on the size of any settlement fund. Syngenta isn't admitting to the plaintiffs' charges. The agreement still requires court approval.

Lawyers for the farmers said they looked forward to proposing a final settlement agreement over the next several weeks.

China's rejection of U.S. corn shipments containing Syngenta's biotech corn roiled the agriculture sector and renewed debate over how to manage new crop genes that can take years to secure regulatory approval around the world. China had been the world's fastest-growing market for corn. After rejecting the shipments containing Syngenta genes, U.S. corn exports to the country dropped off. Meanwhile, China's domestic corn stockpile has swelled.

The settlement doesn't cover separate lawsuits filed by Canadian farmers. Syngenta is also fighting lawsuits brought by grain companies Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co., which claimed China's rejections of corn shipments cost them tens of millions of dollars.

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In May, Syngenta completed its $43 billion sale to China National Chemical Corp., a Chinese state-owned supplier of pesticides and other chemicals. The deal aimed to harness Syngenta's research into pesticides and seed genetics to help modernize China's farm sector.

Write to Jacob Bunge at jacob.bunge@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 26, 2017 17:35 ET (21:35 GMT)