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Legal woes US GM corn lawsuit proceeds against Syngenta

Viptera protects corn from a range of bugs

(Keystone)

Swiss seeds and pesticides specialist Syngenta has failed to block a lawsuit from three of the world’s biggest commodities traders and thousands of farmers. The case centres on a Chinese ban of genetically modified corn that has cost an estimated $6.3 billion (CHF6.12 billion).

The SonntagsZeitung newspaper reports that a United States judge has dismissed Syngenta’s attempt to have the claims thrown out.

Some 14,217 traders, farmers and exporters of grain claim the Basel-based agrichemical business was in breach of duty of care when it sold its GM corn Agrisure Viptera without first receiving approval from the Chinese authorities.

Agrisure Viptera contains a protein that kills damaging insects such as corn earworm, army worm and corn borer.

China refused shipments of millions of tons of corn containing Agrisure Viptura, also known as MIR162, until the GM crop was finally approved last year. In its defence, Syngenta said it had submitted approval forms in China in 2010.

But this argument has not impressed commodity trading giants Cargill, Bunge and Archer Daniel Midlands that began filing lawsuits in September last year.

A Syngenta spokesperson told SonntagsZeitung that the company was convinced it would win the legal case.

Pesticide fears

In the meantime, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper ran a story on Sunday saying Syngenta could also face losses over a widening global ban on Glyphosat pesticides.

Several countries have either restricted the use of the pesticide or could soon consider doing so in the light of a World Health Organization report labelling it potentially carcinogenic.

France and the Netherlands have already restricted the use of Glyphosat, according to the NZZ am Sonntag, while Brazil is considering a ban. Its licence expires in the European Union and the United States at the end of the year, the newspaper notes.

“In my opinion, from a scientific point of view the product must be banned,” agro-ecology expert Angelika Hilbeck from Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology ETHZ, told the newspaper.

Syngenta was not immediately available for comment.

swissinfo and agencies

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