Farmers are projected to lose millions more due to Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta’s premature release of Agrisure Viptera and Duracade corn, corn seed with genetically modified traits that protect the crops from insect infestation.
The case against Syngenta
Agrisure Viptera and Duracade corn contains a trait known as MIR 162. Syngenta began selling the trait in corn seed before receiving approval for import into China, claiming that Chinese approval was underway. Agrisure Viptera sales began in 2009, and China has only recently finally approved MIR 162.
China is a major importer of US grains and over the past year has rejected a great deal of US corn containing MIR 162. As a result, market prices for the grain have plummeted, and many US corn farmers and exporters continue to incur huge losses. One major grain exporter, Trans Coastal Supply Co, expects their total losses to amount to around $41 million due exclusively to Syngenta’s release of Agrisure Viptera.
Lawsuits against Syngenta are claiming the company has engaged in willful misrepresentation, leading buyers to believe that Chinese approval for MIR 162 was imminent. Farmers and exporters rely heavily on biotechnology companies exercising corporate responsibility in the timing of product release. The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) have made it clear that biotech companies are obligated to provide transparency with regard to potential restricted marketability of products so farmers and exporters can maintain access to key export markets such as China.