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Farmers Sought To Join Lawsuit Over GMO Corn

(GAZETTE)  A San Antonio, Texas, lawyer stopped in Brunswick on Friday during a tour of the Corn Belt in search of farmers who have seen their corn income drop in recent years.

Attorney Mikal Watts alleged at the 10:30 a.m. meeting at the Brunswick Community Recreation and Fitness Center that corn prices have suffered because of Syngenta, a Swiss seed corporation, failing to obtain global import approval for a strain of genetically modified corn seed before releasing it to the U.S. market.

Watts, of the Watts Guerra law firm, has partnered with the Cleveland-based Lowe Eklund Wakefield law firm to serve local farmers who hope to file lawsuits against Syngenta along with thousands of others farmers across the nation.

Watts alleged Syngenta “prematurely commercialized” a genetically modified corn seed, known as Agrisure Viptera or MIR162, because it was not yet approved for the global market when it sold the seeds to American farmers. The seed had been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010, but it had not been approved by many recipients of American corn exports, including China.

When the corn products were identified by Chinese officials in 2013, Watts said the government rejected entire corn shipments from the U.S. because the unapproved corn hybrids were comingled with approved corn.

As a result, many American corn farmers — even those who did not grow the Syngenta seeds — suffered a dramatic drop in corn income, Watts asserted.

The news service Reuters reported Thursday from the Chicago Board of Trade that on the futures market, the price for September corn rose 6 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $4.28 for a half- bushel.

Reuters said it was the contract’s highest point this year and that the contract was up 9.2 percent this week after gaining 9.4 percent last week. The report called it the strongest two-week corn rally in three years.

“Farmers who planted the same corn seeds the year before saw a drop in income by a factor of two,” Watts said. “Syngenta knew this would happen.”

Syngenta spokespeople could not be reached for comment, but they argued in a written statement last year that the corporation did not mislead American consumers.

“Syngenta believes that the lawsuits are without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and their profitability,” its spokespeople wrote. “Syngenta commercialized the trait in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements and obtained import approval from major corn-importing countries.

“Syngenta has been fully transparent in commercializing the trait over the last four years.”

The attorneys who stopped in Brunswick said they hoped to find clients to join in class-action lawsuits against Syngenta to recover lost profits.

Other stops throughout the Corn Belt have gathered 15 to 20 people each, they said, but Brunswick’s meeting attracted just one listener, who declined to identify himself to The Gazette. The attorneys said the low turnout was likely because the recent heavy rain has left farmers too busy to attend such a meeting.