In 2010, Syngenta Seeds announced that it planned to commercialize a new hybrid corn seed under the trade name Agrisure® Viptera™. Although Viptera had been approved by the USDA, it was not approved by our major export markets, most importantly China. As a result, several national trade organizations, including the NCGA and NAEGA, sent a very public letter to Syngenta asking it not to prematurely release Viptera until it was approved for export by major U.S. export markets, including China. This letter specifically warned Syngenta that it was risking the U.S. trade market. Syngenta nevertheless proceeded to commercialize Viptera.
Understanding the potential harm to corn prices, one of the top 3 grain elevators, Bunge, put up signs saying it was not going to purchase Viptera corn. In response, Syngenta sued Bunge to try and force it to accept the corn. The court denied Syngenta’s request and said that it was unreasonable to ask grain elevators to segregate Syngenta’s corn—and the cost would be astronomical. Despite making attempts to keep the unapproved corn out of the system, it was too late. Viptera was in the corn supply.
In November 2013, China, the second largest importer of US corn, found Viptera in a shipment of corn during inspection. China had still not approved Viptera and turned the ship around at the dock. During inspections in late 2013 and early 2014, China discovered that many shipments of US corn were contaminated with the Viptera GMO trait. In response, China ultimately banned the import of all US corn—which drove down the price of corn and hurt all corn farmers across the US.
As of November 2013, corn was selling at approximately $7.50 a bushel. Today, it is below $3. While not all of that price drop was caused by Syngenta, we believe we can show that a portion of that price drop is attributable to Syngenta’s premature release of Viptera. Some of the big exporters, including Cargill and Trans Coastal have filed lawsuits against Syngenta. Shortly after China imposed its ban on U.S. corn, trade groups estimated the total losses at around $3 billion and predicted (accurately) that the decline in corn prices would continue. Many farmers have also filed cases in the Midwest, including Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, and Indiana. Any farmer who sold last year’s crops after mid-November 2013 was damaged because that is when the downward price shock began.