To join or not to join
HOLSTEIN – About two dozen farm producers filed into Holstein’s Lohff Memorial Community Center Monday intent on learning about more a class action lawsuit being leveled against seed producer Syngenta on behalf of farmers and cooperatives.
The dispute centers around Syngenta’s release of a corn seed called Agrisure Viptera, which was genetically altered to contain a protein that kills corn yield-robbing bugs, such as earworms and cutworms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved it in 2010, and Syngenta first sold it to farmers in 2011.
China, a growing importer of U.S. corn, refuses to buy any genetically modified crops it hasn’t tested. China had not approved Viptera for importing when Syngenta began selling it.
In November 2013, China discovered the Viptera corn trait in several U.S. shipments.
China began rejecting U.S. corn imports in February 2014. The lawsuits say it rejected more than 131 million bushels.
At Monday’s meeting, attorneys Derek Merman, of Texas, and Justin Demerath, of Nebraska, said more than 50 lawsuits have been filed against Syngenta by farmers and cooperatives across the Corn Belt, including Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois.
The dispute alleges producers lost more than $1 billion as a result of China’s February 2014 ban of Syngenta’s corn trait, MIR 162, designed to kill earworms and cutworms.
China has since approved MIR 162 for imports in December 2014.
The attorneys said economic damage to U.S. corn producers for the last nine months of the marketing year ending Aug. 1, 2014, exceeded $1 billion, according to research provided by the National Grain and Feed Dealers Association.
Farmers’ reactions to Monday’s information were skeptical.
“I’m here because I’m curious to see what’s going on,” said Bob Knaack, of Pierson. “I’ve no clue at this point.
“If it’s a good deal, fine. If it’s all a hoax we’re wasting our time.”
A Cushing area producer, John Johnson, said, “I’m wondering first off where they got my name for the letter (to attend the meeting) in my back pocket,” he said. “I guess I’m not really all that concerned about going after 11 cents when we lost $4 dollars.
“To me, it’s kind of a waste of time. I wanted to find out what they say they’re going to do. I know they’re going to fill their pockets.”
Jim Morgan, of Correctionville, said his concerns centered on having little information on the class action effort and the fact different attorneys were conducting the series of meetings across the state and whether the multi-efforts will, at some point, be coordinated.
“I’m going to be going home and do some research on the computer,” Johnson said.
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