Farmers Have One Month to Decide Whether to Stay in Syngenta Litigation

Farmers Have One Month to Decide Whether to Stay in Syngenta Litigation March 3, 2017

Dave Aiken, Nebraska Extension water and agricultural law specialist, recommends the following article. Aiken wrote previously about this litigation in Federal Court Certifies Nine Producer Classes in Syngenta Litigation. Affected Nebraska  corn farmers are automatically included in the Nebraska producer class and the national producer class.

By Peggy Kirk Hall, assistant professor, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program

Farmers are receiving a lot of attention from law firms these days, from video mailers to offers of free consultations, dinners, hats and more.  The purpose of these marketing efforts is to entice farmers away from participating in the current class action lawsuit against Syngenta.  Law firms want farmers to exclude themselves from the class action litigation and participate in individual lawsuits their firms would bring against Syngenta.  With a deadline of April 1 looming, farmers must decide whether to remain in or step away from the class action lawsuit.

The class action lawsuit, known as “In re Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation,” is pending before the U.S. District Court in Kansas.  It is one of two major lawsuits regarding corn rejected by China in 2013 because China had not yet approved Syngenta’s Duracade and Viptera brands of genetically-modified corn.  The lawsuit consolidated hundreds of similar federal court cases that all claimed that Syngenta should be liable for the drop in corn prices that followed China’s rejections because Syngenta stated that it had obtained all necessary regulatory approvals for Duracade and Viptera, but instead released the seed before receiving China’s approval.

Class Certification

Last September, the court certified the litigation as a class action lawsuit, which allows the case to commence on behalf of all class members.  Any farmer that fits within the class definitions is automatically included in the lawsuit and does not have to pursue individual litigation against Syngenta.  The court established a nationwide class of “producers,” defined as any person or entity listed as a producer on an FSA-578 form filed with the USDA who priced corn for sale after November 18, 2013 and who did not purchase Viptera or Duracade corn seed (farmers who used Syngenta’s seed have different legal claims).  The nationwide class is for producers bringing claims under federal law.  The court also certified eight state classes for producers bringing claims under state laws, including Ohio.  Syngenta appealed the class certification, but the Tenth District Court of Appeals denied the appeal.

Read more of this article on the OSU Agricultural Law & Taxation blog where the author discusses the pros and cons of staying in the class action lawsuit and what's next for these cases in the courts.  The U.S. District Court’s website for the Syngenta class action lawsuit is http://www.ksd.uscourts.gov/syngenta-ag-mir162-corn-litigation/

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