Three Kansas farmers have filed suit against Syngenta Corp., a Swiss maker of a genetically modified strain of corn.
They join a growing number of interests across the country that have gone to court over the corn.
In the three separate lawsuits, filed last week in Federal District Court in Wichita, Oran Winter of Sedgwick County, Wayne Schmidt of Reno County and Eugene Goering of McPherson County accuse Syngenta of disrupting the export market to China for American corn farmers.
According to the suit, Syngenta released its genetically modified corn with the Agrisure Viptera trait in 2009. Agrisure Viptera is aimed at preventing yield and quality damage caused by black cutworm, corn earworm, western bean cutworm and similar insects.
U..S. officials approved the use of the corn in 2010, and subsequently, most countries that buy corn from U.S. producers also approved the variety.
The suit contends that Syngenta misleadingly assured farmers it was close to getting Chinese approval. But in late 2013, afraid that corn with the Agrisure Viptera trait – which was still not approved by China – was mixed with other U.S. corn, China reduced all U.S. corn imports.
China did approve the trait in corn on Dec. 22, according to Syngenta. The approval covers corn grain and processing byproducts, such as dried distillers grains, for food and feed use.
Most corn produced in the United States is grown with genetically modified seeds – that includes the corn that China continued to import as it blocked the Syngenta variety.
For the loss of the Chinese market for a year, the farmers each seek more than $75,000.
Since late 2013, a number of farmers and companies – including Cargill – have gone to court to seek damages.
Syngenta spokesman Paul Minehart on Tuesday rejected the contention in the lawsuits. He said Syngenta has always been in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements, been completely transparent about the approval process, and received approvals from a number of major corn importing countries – now, including China.
The company “strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and crop yields,” he said, in a statement.