Corn Farmers’ Case Against Syngenta
In November 2013, China — a major importer of US corn — began rejecting shipments of US corn amid concerns that genetically-modified product containing the MIR 162 trait had been comingled with the rest of the corn crop. This caused a precipitous decline in US corn prices.
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) pegged the economic impact of China’s ban on Syngenta GMO corn at $2.9 billion between November 2013 and April 2014. Some experts contend that the market has yet to recover, thus the total economic impact might be even greater.
Despite the fact that one of our largest agricultural trading partners had yet to approve Agrisure Viptera MIR 162, Syngenta began selling the product in 2011. By 2012, the company was allegedly misinforming farmers, grain elevators and exporters about the prospects of China approving the corn for import. The company was very explicit in its statements and even launched a “Plant with Confidence” marketing campaign. In an April 2012 earnings call, Syngenta CEO Michael Mack stated that he expected China to clear Agrisure Viptera MIR 162 “within a matter of a couple of days.” That approval did not come until December 2014.
The company encouraged farmers to buy the seed and plant it next to corn grown from other seeds. This potentially caused cross-pollination of the MIR 162 trait. Furthermore, MIR 162 corn was comingled with non-MIR 162 corn, making it impossible to isolate the offending product from grain shipments. While only 3 percent of American fields were planted with Viptera and Duracade (released in 2014), we believe that nearly every corn farmer in the nation was negatively impacted by this disastrous product launch.
When China began enforcing its zero-tolerance policy for the presence of Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera MIR 162 in corn imports, a series of major market disruptions ensued. This caused US corn crops to be sold at a discount in domestic markets. The NGFA’s preliminary estimate is that China’s refusal of US corn reduced prices by 11 cents per bushel, driving corn prices down to a five-year low. Subsequent estimates show a loss of 20 to 30 cents per bushel.
The bottom line: We believe farmers should be compensated because Syngenta took money out of their pockets when its product caused corn prices to collapse.